Tue | Jul 23, 2024

‘I watched my baby take his last breath’

Newborn’s death blamed on absence of ventilator at May Pen Hospital

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2024 | 1:42 PM
Chavanie Farquharson-Blackstock's baby who died due to the lack of a ventilator at hospital.
Chavanie Farquharson-Blackstock's baby who died due to the lack of a ventilator at hospital.

A mother is agonising over the death of her newborn, who doctors at the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon struggled to keep alive because there was no ventilator.

The infant died on Tuesday, four days after being born.

The medical team, which took turns manually ventilating the baby, was not able to secure transfer to another hospital.

The Mandeville Regional Hospital, approximately 45 minutes away from May Pen, was reportedly short-staffed though a ventilator was available.

Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine, the Bustamante Hospital for Children, and the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew were all at capacity.

Private facilities were also unable to accommodate the newborn.

“I watched my baby take his last breath,” Chavanie Farquharson-Blackstock told The Gleaner over the phone, tearfully recollecting events.

Farquharson-Blackstock was admitted to the hospital, a Type B facility last week Wednesday after her gynaecologist determined that her blood pressure was too high. She was 30 weeks and six days’ pregnant, entering her eighth month.

On Friday, doctors delivered the baby via C-section but indicated that his lungs had not fully developed and needed the assistance of a ventilator.

The mother, a nursing student, said the team tried “tirelessly” to keep the baby stable and to secure a transfer.

Struggled to keep vitals up

He was placed in an incubator and an ambu bag was used to provide respiratory support. She said doctors and nurses would take turns pumping the bag.

Whenever his stats improved, doctors would allow him to attempt to breathe on his own, placing a tube down his throat and to his lungs to help maintain saturation.

Farquharson-Blackstock said the baby remained stable for some time before he began to struggle again. Doctors returned to the ambu bag but struggled to keep his vitals up.

“A doctor came from over the paediatric ward and she said to me, ‘Mrs Blackstock, your son is not doing well. Do you want to come and look for him?’” Farquharson-Blackstock said.

With her blood pressure elevated, she said she went to see her baby, who was exhibiting signs of respiratory distress.

“It was just too much for him. A little baby going through so much,” she said, her voice cracking.

She questioned the service being offered to Jamaicans at public hospitals, lamenting how severely underresourced the facilities are.

“They have good staff. I won’t say otherwise because they did their best. I told the doctors thanks because they were there right throughout. Some of them did not sleep even for a second. I know how rough it can be to work on a night shift with so much patient and still tend to one baby. To see him keep breathing,” Farquharson-Blackstock said.

Still, she is convinced that other mothers are likely to face the same fate if the hospital is not adequately resourced.

“I don’t want somebody else to be going through such a pain because it’s really painful,” said Farquharson-Blackstock, who was in tears.

Not uncommon

The Gleaner contacted senior medical officer at May Pen Hospital Dr Bradley Edwards, who confirmed that there was no available ventilator but said administrators were working to acquire one.

He also confirmed that the team of doctors took turns giving the infant oxygen from Friday to Tuesday.

“It’s not uncommon for this to happen to this particular team, but it is not easy. The reality is that we do not have a ventilator currently, but the ventilator by itself is just a ventilator. There are hospitals that have teams who have been trained up to use the ventilator. You have a special neonatologist who has responsibility for it. We are in the process of getting a ventilator, though,” Edwards said.

“It’s really unfortunate that we were unable to transfer the patient anywhere on this occasion, but we are in the process of getting a ventilator,” he reiterated.

The Gleaner contacted Errol Greene, regional director of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), who said the transfer of a patient is strictly a consultant-to- consultant arrangement.

SERHA is the regional authority that oversees several of the aforementioned hospitals that were at capacity.

“If it is that the hospitals are full, and they don’t have a bed and they can’t treat with the patient, they just can’t,” he said.

Wayne Chen, chairman of the Southern Regional Health Authority, said he would look into the matter.