For a family in Big Falls Village, Toledo, this was supposed to be a time of rejoicing in the miracle of life with the newest addition to the family; baby Heidi. Instead, they are gripped by sadness as they must now bear with the fact that the young mother, 29 year old Nolberta Sanchez, has passed away. The story really began when Sanchez was transferred from the Southern Regional Hospital to the Western Regional Hospital on September 9th because the hospital in Dangriga did not have the equipment to perform a C-Section. The operation was conducted at the Western Regional where a healthy baby Heidi was born. But, something went wrong and a second surgery had to be conducted. During that surgery, the father says he was asked to sign a consent form to remove his wife’s womb because she was bleeding. Her womb was removed but she started complaining of severe pain. This is what the husband, John Romero, told our colleagues at Channel 5 yesterday.
John Romero: The baby came out in the healthiest condition, and shortly after that about 20 minutes to half an hour, the nurses came in and told me that the doctor is already performing another surgery to remove the womb. She brought a letter, I mean a form to fill out, a consent form for me to full out but the surgery had already been in progress. She told me that the womb was not contracting and it was causing the bleeding. So they took out the womb and then they stone her up again, then they told me that I would have to wait for 2 hours until I could see her in the ward. She was feeling weak and in pain and we came in and they looked at her and said they will go outside and do some analysis. She said babe I feel weak I feel like I di sweat cool and what not. This went all the way until 5:30 in the evening. When Dr. Landero reached into the ward he told me that there’s nothing else he can do here. He had to refer her to the KHMH in Belize City. The baby was left in Belmopan in the care of a nurse which I really appreciate her help. When we arrived at the KHMH, right in front of my very own eyes an ultrasound was done on her. The doctor told me said Mr. Romero what you are seeing here, this black dark looking thing is a pool of blood that has settled in her abdomen. Dr. Ariana came to me and told me seh this is what has to happen, I will have to take her to the operating theater. I will conduct another surgery on her to remove this blood and stop the bleeding. So they did what they had to do and they took her to the operating theater. I waited for an hour, a little over an hour Dr Ariana came out and tell me, I just took out 3 pints of blood from your wife’s abdomen and I said what? 3 PINTS OF BLOOD? He said that they stopped the bleeding and now they’re just waiting for her reaction in 24-48 hours. He brought her out of the operating theater and took her to the ICU and that was the last time I saw her alive. Thursday the 10th of September I got a call from the Hospital saying Mr. Romero sir we’re sorry to inform you that she didn’t make it, your wife passed away. Unbelievably she passed away and I started to cry, I couldn’t take it anymore.
Sanchez and Romero had four children including baby Heidi. Sanchez was buried on Sunday September 13th and the family has since expressed the intention of seeking legal recourse in this matter. So how does the Ministry of Health respond to an impending lawsuit? Well, for starters, they have launched an extensive review into the death of 29 year old Nolberta Sanchez. We spoke to Dr. Ramon Figueroa, the newly appointed Director of Health Services who explained the measures being taken by the Ministry of Health in this matter.
Dr. Ramon Figueroa: Every single maternal death goes through a rigorous process of review with external specialist to look at the whole process from beginning to end to see what was wrong, or what we could have done better. Certain deaths might not be preventable, but certainly the ones that are, we want to know where we fell short and address these so it doesn’t happen again.
Reporter: What’s the process in this particular case? I understand there’s an extensive review being done.
Dr. Ramon Figueroa: Yes we collect all the information from the maternal and child health department. The family community and health collects all the information that’s available from the time the person came into contact with the health system, to the point where we had the negative outcome. Once we have documented all of this, we sit down with all the people who have been a part of providing the care to the individual and then we conduct interviews with them to find out what went wrong, to see what we could have done, and if there’s something wrong to point out what was wrong so that they know that this will no longer be tolerated.
Reporter: The cause of death, not without going into details about how, what happened, if negligence is involved. The cause of death specifically. What is it on paper? I believe a post mortem was done
Dr. Ramon Figueroa: In that particular case I don’t think there was a postmortem done, but certainly there was some complications post surgery. I have to wait until we see the actual death certificate. I can tell you what I think but when I see the Death Certificate I’ll have to report what is on the death certificate. And certainly having seen that report from the father, it does break your heart to see that something like this has happened and that does motivate us to get to the bottom of it.
According to Dr. Figueroa, the Maternal Child Health Department and the Ministry are sparing no resources in getting to the bottom of this. They have recruited specialists from KHMH and the private sector who will be conducting an object assessment on all those who handled Nolberta Sanchez from the moment she arrived at the hospital to the moment she passed away. Dr. Figueroa also assures the family and the general public that there will be no cover ups.
Dr. Ramon Figueroa: I will tell you that in the case the ministry of health will not cover up any deficiency. I think that discusses with the CEO and I think the minister understand that that we will not, if there was a fault, we are not going to cover up. We’re going to take this to the limit of our responsibility, whatever action we can take. We are going as far as possible to ensure that if there’s anybody accountable for it, if there’s any negligence that people are held accountable for it.
Though the investigation is still ongoing, authorities from within the Ministry of Health informed us that they do suspect malpractice.