Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Tufton studying whether to publish childbirth tragedy report

Published:Thursday | July 1, 2021 | 12:12 AMJonielle Daley/Staff Reporter

Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton said he will be assessing the findings of the investigation into allegations of mistreatment and neglect surrounding a newborn’s death at the Spanish Town Hospital to decide whether to make them public.

Shanique Armstrong reported that healthcare staff ignored her pleas for help as she self-delivered her premature 24-week-old baby on the floor of the Accident and Emergency Department of the Spanish Hospital on June 2.

The Southern Regional Health Authority, chaired by Wentworth Charles, released recommendations for action on Tuesday based on considerations from the findings.

“The region has been told to take whatever action they deem necessary, but I need to brief myself on the report to see what other things can be done, if not for the particular case, systemically to enhance the service quality,” Tufton said on Wednesday.

Armstrong, 26, has expressed surprise as she is yet to be formally contacted or informed of the findings.

“Even the report that they send, me don’t see nothing ‘bout footage, and I am very interested in what they find from it,” Armstrong told The Gleaner in a phone interview on Wednesday.

She is at a loss as to why a man who identified himself as doctor with SERHA called her father, without her knowledge and consent, with a line of questioning tracing back to her teenage years and about her partner.

Tufton said that he was uncertain of whether, and how much of, the report would be made public, as patient confidentiality was one of the factors that caused reservation.

“What you may think is good can end up being not so good,” he said.

It is understood that the ministry also has reservations because of the prospect of litigation.

Tufton also said he is yet to receive a second report on the February 26 case of Jalisa McGowan, whose mother alleged staff neglect as the 17-year-old endured an apparent asthma attack at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). McGowan was later taken to the Andrews Memorial Hospital, where she died.

“We had asked the University Hospital to appoint an independent team to assess not just the particular case, but how that case speaks to any systemic challenges within the operations of the institution, and in particular, the accident and emergency department,” the health minister said, adding that follow-up was needed.

Nordia Francis-Williams, manager of public relations and communication at the UHWI, said that investigations are ongoing.

“It’s currently the subject of processes and procedures, both internal and external to the University Hospital and at this juncture. A public statement is not appropriate,” Francis-Williams told The Gleaner.

Heightened concern over COVID-19 infections has been cited as a cause for uncompassionate care from public-health workers.


The recommendations from SERHA for immediate implementation at the Spanish Town Hospital are as follows:

1. Reorganise the operations at the Spanish Town Hospital.

2. Have midwives provide direct patient care to pregnant women.

3. Discontinue the practice of bedpans for miscarriages and implement the use of incontinent pads and/or adult diapers.

4. Provide grief counselling to women who miscarry.

5. Prevent a recurrence of the Armstrong incident by having a case manager, public-health nurse, or social worker assist pregnant women in the navigation of the health and social-care systems.

6. Reorganise the care system for persons suspected with COVID-19 within the hospital to accommodate women who are in early pregnancy.