A major squabble has erupted between two Kingston hospitals over whether the death of a 23-year-old delivering mother was caused by a panicked breakdown in COVID-19 patient protocols by a medical team at the Andrews Memorial Hospital.
While the Ministry of Health and Wellness has launched an investigation into the incident, Andrews has denied culpability, pointing a finger in the direction of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) for not answering appeals for assistance. Andrews has also blamed a team of anaesthesiologists working with Jodian Fearon’s gynaecologist for refusing to engage because of fears that the patient might have had COVID-19.
She later tested negative.
While neither UHWI Chief Executive Officer Kevin Allen nor Medical Chief of Staff Dr Carl Bruce could be contacted, a well-placed source at the hospital said that its expertise was sought and readily given.
“UHWI was consulted, and our team of specialists here were in talks with Andrews. We were told that the baby would be delivered at Andrews and the patient sent to us in the morning. UHWI was never asked to admit an expectant mother,” the source told The Gleaner.
Among the information presented to UHWI was that the patient was 38 weeks pregnant and that labour had been induced. The patient displayed flulike symptoms and developed a fever after.
“As a result of the consultation with UHWI, a medical team was dispatched from here to Andrews, headed by one of our experienced obstetrician-gynaecologists. By the time they reached Andrews, they were told that the patient was no longer there,” said the hospital source.
Questions are now being raised about what happened during the period of consultation and the time the UHWI arrived at the Seventh-day Adventist-run facility.
The UHWI team at Andrews was then advised to “stand down”, The Gleaner has learnt.
Fearon, who died at the UHWI about six hours after delivering her daughter at the Spanish Town Hospital, would have celebrated her 24th birthday tomorrow.
“My beautiful daughter. My princess. Words can’t explain. I never knew I would be saying this,” Fearon’s distraught mother wrote on Facebook yesterday in tribute over Jodian’s death.
A distressed family member told The Gleaner yesterday that the newborn, who is still at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, “was doing well. She just has a little jaundice, but she is doing well”.
Fearon’s gynaecologist, Dr Lloyd Goldson, told The Gleaner yesterday that days leading up to her death, Fearon’s pregnancy-induced hypertension signalled to him that he needed to “deliver her”. She had been booked for delivery at Andrews weeks before.
“From she was about 33 weeks, her blood pressure started going up, and I have been treating the blood pressure. At 35 weeks, the blood pressure wasn’t doing too badly, but they called me on Wednesday to say that whenever she lies down, she sort of blowing short,” he said.
Goldson said that nurses at the hospital suspected that his patient might have had COVID-19, given the symptoms she was displaying while in labour.
“When I realise now that Andrews says that she has to go, and University doesn’t want to take her, [I took action].
“The ICU at the UHWI said they would take her, but the maternity [ward] said they couldn’t. I called Maternity, and they said they can’t take the lady. They didn’t give a reason at all,” he said.
Attempts were made to have Fearon transferred to the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, but with the only three beds in the area designated for COVID-19 care all being occupied, the door there was closed as well.
Andrews eventually agreed to have the patient delivered, Goldson said, but on Friday, at around 11, he came back to realise that the maternity ward had been cleared.
“In all fairness to them, they kept two nurses to stay with her on the maternity unit. Andrews didn’t send her away. They panicked about the COVID, but they didn’t send her away,” he said.
Goldson explained that while at Andrews Hospital, after the decision was made to induce her, Fearon’s oxygen saturation fell, and he decided to perform a Caesarean section.
Andrews agreed initially, he said, but after reassessing her condition, noting that if it was necessary that the patient be intubated, there would be great risk.
“So, because of that, they didn’t want to do that,” he said, mentioning that his patient’s cervix was dilated at about 5cm.
Usually, the cervix opens to accommodate the passage of the baby’s head into the vagina, which is around 10cm dilated for most term babies.
But Andrews, in a statement yesterday, said Fearon had been prepped and other surgeries postponed but that the “physician’s team of independent anaesthesiologists refused to participate in the surgery”.
Another attempt was made to transfer Fearon to the UHWI, but Goldson said that that attempt failed after his contact there told him “she not on duty now”.
He would receive word from the UHWI that Spanish Town Hospital had agreed to take Fearon, but he would need to travel with her by ambulance as he had a few hours until she was due for birth.
But Goldson lamented that after arriving at the hospital shortly before 12 o’clock, there was a further wait of more than one hour before his patient could be admitted.
“It was total madness!” Goldson said.
Both Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Prime Minister Andrew Holness have expressed sympathy towards the family.
A relative with whom The Gleaner spoke said the family was expected to visit the UHWI today.
Attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan has been retained by the family.
“Whichever institution, someone has to be held responsible. This one saying this, and this one saying that. That can’t bring back a life. We want to know exactly what were the protocols that were in place.
“At the end of the day for us, we want justice for Jodi! We want justice!” the family member said.
The family intends to pursue an independent post-mortem, The Gleaner understands.
Yesterday, Andrews Memorial Hospital said it would continue to screen and accept the patients that have been booked into the maternity unit.
“But the institution maintains the position that it cannot accept patients with COVID-like symptoms because it does not have a functional intensive care unit to provide respiratory support in the event a patient’s respiratory condition deteriorates,” the hospital said in response to Gleaner queries.
Meanwhile, Fearon’s family issued a statement last night requesting privacy.
“The family welcomes the public commitment by the Government to have a thorough and complete investigation into the circumstances which led to Jodian’s death and also hopes that a review of the systems and protocols is also under way to prevent another occurrence,” the statement read.