Under-staffing a critical component to incorrect administering of drugs

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The medical practitioners who incorrectly administered injections to the three leukaemia juvenile patients leading to their deaths at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in January, treated those patients without the supervision of a senior doctor at some point during treatments.

This is according to the Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) of Guyana, Dr Karen Gordon-Campbell, who recently told the media that the scenario put together from the investigations revealed that the lack of staffing at the hospital resulted in their actions.
“The few persons that were available [were] stretching themselves between clinic, Accident and Emergency, ward rounds. Administration of the chemotherapy lead to the administration of the chemotherapy being done without the senior person being present at all times. And that I think, was part of the problem, lack of staff at the time.”

Dr Gordon-Campbell explained that in understanding that persons were being pulled “here, there and everywhere,” the three medical practitioners in question, wrote their treatment without checking on the standard operating procedures.

“A doctor administered it…but not the senior doctor. Ideally, you’d want to have a senior person at least in the room observing, ideally, or at least assure that the person that was administering was doing what they should do,” she said.

Meanwhile, GPHC’s Director of Medical and Professional Services, Dr Fawcett Jeffrey, stated when any doctor is about to treat a patient there are protocols in place that need to and must be followed.

“There are roadmaps that you need to follow when you are going to administer any form of medical attention to a patient. What happened that these roadmaps and protocols were not followed exactly as they should be. That is the reason why we ended up [with] the complications.”

Lessons learnt

Dr Jeffrey noted that while it is unfortunate that there had to be incidents such as these where the three children lost their lives, the GPHC has learnt that supervision of junior staff is critical in all departments.

“It is very important for our staff to be better supervised, juniors by seniors, and that they stick to standard protocols for the management of all pathology within the institution. Not only the management or the use of chemotherapeutic drugs, but any protocol, even if you are going to do a surgical procedure, if you are going to do any form of management, protocols are there and they are there to be followed. It was unfortunate in this case; the protocols were not followed.”

Lawsuit

The family of Sharezer Mendonca, 6, who is one of three children that died after receiving pre-chemotherapy treatment at the hospital in January, plans to sue the institution for wrongful death.

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