The PSA indicated that it would not be letting the matter die and is seeking legal counsel and “act on the advice given” since the nurses were not given a chance to defend themselves.
They were verbally fired last Friday when they attended a tribunal hearing they were summoned to attend and received written notification via hand delivered letters on Friday night at their homes.
They were fired in response to the second-degree burns sustained by newborn Justin Paul on April 17 at the Neonatal Unit of the Mt Hope Women’s Hospital. The NCRHA Quality Department and the Ministry of Health director of health services quality, Valerie Alleyne-Rawlins, conducted separate inquiries into the incident.
Despite the NCRHA investigation, “up to this point in time none of us are aware of the facts,” PSA President Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said at a media briefing at the PSA headquarters, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. “What we are aware of is the response of the NCRHA being prompted by the Minister of Health who has to deal with members of the public who were enraged by the incident.”
Baptiste-Primus extended sympathies to Paul’s family but said the situation at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) was “a little worse than the population has been led to believe.” She said there are endemic and systemic problems at the NCRHA and if they are not addressed “similar incidents will continue to occur.”
Baptiste-Primus said on the day of the incident five nurses were on duty — four rostered and one from the nursing pool. A Filipino nurse was in charge of the ward.
She said the RN (registered nurse) who was fired graduated in September 2005 and has “absolutely no training in neonatology which is a specialised field of nursing.” The ENA has six years nursing experience but no training in neonatology. The nurses were reportedly “traumatised”.
She said the PSA has not heard if any action was taken against the imported nurse. The union did not know if the Filipino had any neonatology experience.
Baptiste-Primus called for the NCRHA to produce for the public the results of its investigations.
She said the union was aware of instances where ENAs were put in charge of wards. She advised the ENAs to do only those functions within their job specifications.
PSA first vice-president Stephen Thomas said since their suspension on May 9, the nurses were “never contacted” until they got the May 24 letter summoning them to appear at a disciplinary hearing at EWMSC.
Thomas also responded to the misinformation given to the public. He said it was “normal practice” for IV bags to be heated and placed in the incubators because many of the heat probes in them were not functioning.
The seven newborns were being attended to and three were critical. He said the responsibility fell to an ENA and RN without the appropriate supervision or equipment. Thomas said no mention has been made of what instructions were given by the doctor. He said the public is left with the impression that a reckless and irresponsible nurse and ENA put hot IV bags for the baby to be burnt.