With a possible lawsuit pending for negligence against the island’s main health care institution, a high-level probe is underway into the deaths of two mothers soon after giving birth at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) about four weeks ago.
Barbados TODAY understands that the mother of one of the dead women is claiming that the hospital was negligent and she has hired an attorney to deal with the matter. That family member has declined to comment any further on the case at this stage.
During a press briefing this morning to discuss the new Zika virus and the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George confirmed the deaths in response to a question from Barbados TODAY.
“There’ve been maternal deaths in recent times, within the last three to four weeks . . . and these will be fully investigated. Maternal deaths are something that the Ministry of Health is very wary of. We feel that maternal deaths should not occur. So we are trying to get more information on these incidences – these two incidences that have been brought to [our] attention and to see if we can put more systems in place to learn from these incidences and make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” said Dr George.
The Acting Chief Medical Officer noted that maternal deaths were among the indicators used to judge a country’s health care system, adding that Barbados has done well over the years “in respect of our neo-natal mortality rate and perinatal mortality rate and our maternal mortality rate.”
He assured the public that there would be a thorough investigation that would include the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Minister of Health John Boyce decline to comment on the specific cases, saying it was a sensitive issue. However, he explained the approach to dealing with issues of concern.
“As the Chief Medical Officer has indicated, we will continue as a ministry, as part of our remit, to monitor the situations carefully; and where required, where we deem necessary, alert the public,” Boyce said.
Asked what he would say to the families now mourning the deaths of their loved ones, the Minister replied: “We empathize with families in these situations. That is exactly what I would say. I mean, we can go through the hospital or we can go through our communities every day and pick the case that you may wish to . . . but you know, this is a reality that we continue to grapple with.
“But the assurance that you must take away from here, is that you have in the Ministry of Health and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a team that is alert and monitoring these situations as regards health care indicators in this country and making sure we stay on the cusp of response to these indicators and making sure the best available care is there for all Barbadians and visitors.”
Maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause except accidental or incidental causes, according to the World Health Organization.
Data from the CIA World Factbook updated as of June 30, 2015, revealed that in 2008 there were 64 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in Barbados, with this figure falling to 51 in every 100,000 live births in 2010.