Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Set a thief to catch a thief

Medical experts claim hospital’s investigation

A health system can be regarded as having a fundamental problem when its patients undertake to make accusations against doctors who are charged with their care.

This notion was unequivocally voiced by former Head of the Guyana Medical Council and the ranking authority on neurology, Dr Walter Ramsahoye, in wake of the recently publicised allegations made by a patient that she was assaulted by a doctor while she was a patient at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

During a telephone interview with this newspaper, Dr Ramsahoye expressed dissatisfaction that an investigation into the matter was not conducted by an independent body which has no vested interest in either of the parties involved.

It is the belief of the doctor that the investigation was conducted by less than qualified people and thus cannot be deemed as satisfactory.

He explained that a doctor’s examination of a patient must always be in private, adding that any other action is an outright violation of the doctor/patient relationship.

According to the medical expert, the fact that the hospital’s findings suggest that hospital staffers other than the doctor were questioned during the investigation suggests that there was a serious violation of professional ethics.

Dr Ramsahoye further noted that, while the investigation reveals that the doctor used a key to illicit pain and neurological reflex, the examination should have been conducted in such a way that no harm was done to the patient.

He asserted that at no time should the doctor use any type of object that would cause harm to the patient.

He said that there is nothing wrong with a medical doctor examining a patient to determine consciousness, but he noted that if the patient can recall what transpired during the examination the conscious level cannot have been seriously impaired.

And though it would be difficult to determine whether there was verbal and racial abuse, Dr Ramsahoye noted that the entire situation hinges on the fact that there is a fundamental problem at the institution.

The situation, according to him, falls within two aspects which address the issue of medicine and that of conduct, which must be urgently examined.

Dr Agueda Surrey, a practising doctor for more than 25 years had similar views.

She explained that, as far as she is aware, the hospital investigation suggests that hospital staffers, including porters and security guards, were instrumental in providing information on what transpired between the patient and the doctor.

Dr Surrey said that she is not in agreement with this procedure and she does not think that the investigation is valid since it included the accounts of the staffers. She, too, said that doctors are mandated to examine their patients in private.

She said that the investigation should have been solely based on the accounts of the doctor and the patient, and a nurse, if there was one present at the time.

She noted that it is regarded as unprofessional for any doctor to speak in a demeaning way to any patient. Such conduct she said is unprofessional.

She said that rather than trying to exonerate itself the hospital administration should have apologised had the incident occurred.

The doctor at the centre of the dispute graduated from the medical school at the University of Guyana in 2005 and would have completed his internship at the Georgetown Public Hospital one year later.

The Minister of Health has already said that he is standing by his medical staff.

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