13 premature babies died at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) over 20 days this past May, eight of whom succumbed to ent-ero-bac-ter cloa-cae, a common bacteria that proved fatal to their fragile systems. Despite the heavy attention given to the cluster of deaths and the protests and calls for action by grieving parents, the hospital’s human resources were for the most part absolved by an investigation conducted by specialists from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The report found numerous instances of mismanagement and oversight in hospital practices but found no human beings responsible for the deaths of the little ones. On Friday Orange Walk East representative Dr. Marco Tulio Mendez raised the issue in the House of Representatives and took some credit for raising the spectre of trouble at Belize’s largest hospital – advice which he says was ignored, fatally.
Doctor Marco Tulio Mendez – Area Representative for Orange Walk
“…just let this go. This, Mr. Speaker, this event, the death of thirteen babies at tae Karl Heusner is a dark stain on the sole of our nation. As you may recall, Mr. Speaker, on this honourable House, I did warn of the crisis of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. I did stated about the overcrowd wards, about the lack of supplies for this for the basic drugs of our children. Mr. Speaker, I did mention about the loose tiles of the operating table…”
Dr. Mendez’ own hospital, Northern Medical Specialties Plaza, recently lost a baby in similar circumstances, but he maintains the two case are completely different.
Doctor Marco Tulio Mendez
“With a congenital disease, a one month baby, this hospital is a private hospital that is owned by ten Belizeans Doctors and where I work. Ten Belizean doctors have invested for the proper and adequate and quality care for our people in te northern part of our country. Mr. Speaker, the death of any child, of course is a concern to me as a doctor and as a pediatrician, and the autopsy that was done on this baby by a very known pathologist, stated that there was no malpractice. Mr. Speaker, this case cannot be compared with the nauseating event…with the terrible event that happened at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital…it cannot! It was a terrible event that occurred at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. And Mr. Speaker, my respect to the parents, to the NGOs, to the media who voiced their opinion, their concern on this terrible event! We cannot…”
Dr. Mendez went on to outline a list of deficiencies found in the PAHO report and ended by calling for the resignation of Minister of Health and Corozal Bay representative Hon. Pablo Marin. Hon. Marin immediately hit back, dropping the bombshell that he personally asked for the resignation of KHMH CEO Dr. Gary Longsworth despite moments earlier saying that he could not politically interfere in the workings of a statutory body. Here are those remarks.
Hon. Pablo Marin – Minister of Health
“Act something like that and gives a lot of advice, but the reality it seems to cover up what happened in his hospital. That is the main thing and he spoke about this over and over, I brought it up again, but the reality is let me start by saying this: KHMH is supposed to know that it’s a statutory body. We cannot interfere politically, and the CEO is appointed by the Board. Now, let me put this clear on the record that I ask the Chairlady from the KHMH and my CEO that we need to change the CEO from KHMH because we need somebody that is stronger and have more ganas, but four of the members from the Board decided not. So, I will ask the media to go and ask them. That is four of them. So, I am being honest…
Hon. Pablo Marin declared that the hospital works with all and noted that it even takes cases from private institutions such as Northern Medical. After inviting the Orange Walk East rep to tour the facility, Hon. Marin closed by stinging Dr. Mendez for in effect doing the same thing he accused the Minister of – having no knowledge of what goes on at his establishment.
Hon. Pablo Marin
“We at KHMH, have 120 beds, right? When at the day of the conference, the Prime Minister was there. Because he is over me, I have to sit down and hold, and when the media ask you, what happened to the babies in the hospital, what is it, you say, I don’t know! And you only have ten beds in your hospital, how will you not know? And now what you are doing, you are hiding behind a liar! You have shares in that same hospital; you supposed to know better than that!”