KPH CEO disputes claims of cancer patient’s neglect

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Acting CEO of the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) Dr Natalie Whylie has disputed claims of ill-treatment and neglect made by family members of cancer patient Reneisha Townsend.

Dr Whylie told the Jamaica Observer that she was made aware of the allegations through a video making its rounds on various social media platforms where Townsend’s family voiced their discontent with the quality of treatment they say is being given to their loved one.

Townsend, a 37-year-old mother of three, is currently battling stage four breast cancer and has been admitted to KPH. On Monday, Townsend’s sister Shanice told the Observer that her family believes that health professionals at KPH have “given up on her”.

“We had her at UWI (University Hospital of the West Indies) first and she didn’t like the treatment so we moved her to KPH…Each time she comes here, they keep her the most, three days and then they send her home back. Hours a night we affi jump up and bring her back to the hospital because the breast is bleeding,” Shanice said on Monday.

She also stated that Townsend was brought to KPH on Monday morning to have her wound dressed and was rushed back to the hospital in the afternoon as she complained about trouble breathing.

That, Shanice said, was when they encountered difficulty with the staff at KPH as her sister was in dire need of oxygen but was told that none was available where she was being treated at the time. She alleged that the family had to wheel the patient around the hospital as there were also no porters available to help with transport.

Noting that the allegations were of “grave concern”, Dr Whylie said that an investigation was subsequently launched into the matter.

“It was brought to my attention by several [people] because the Ministry of Health and Wellness does have a complaint policy, and so complaints come to us via many different means,” Dr Whylie said.

The acting CEO added, “And as part of the policy, it is incumbent on me as the chief executive officer to investigate. So when the complaint came it was a grave concern to me and I immediately asked the senior medical officer of the hospital and the director of nursing services to investigate and provide a report.”

Dr Whylie told the Sunday Observer that while she could not share the details of the investigation, she was “satisfied” that the staff at KPH was providing the best care to the patient.

“I am not going to be able to speak to the details of the investigation, because it would require me to give confidential medical information. But the matter has been investigated. The senior medical officer and consultants with responsibility for care were already involved and are involved. When I looked at the investigation, I am quite satisfied that she is indeed getting the care that she needs at this time, in line with her clinical condition,” said Dr Whylie.

“I am quite satisfied not just as a CEO, but as a medical doctor myself [because] the standard of care that she’s getting is within acceptable standards for her medical condition,” she continued.

At the same time, Dr Whylie said that the medical staff has also sought to reassure Townsend of their commitment to assist her during “this difficult diagnosis.

“The complaint mechanism really requires us to speak to the complainant and at this time, we were able to speak directly to our patient to reassure her and just to ensure that the care that she needs at this time continues at the Kingston Public Hospital,” the acting CEO said.

Acknowledging that family members were also affected by cancer diagnoses, Dr Whylie said the emotions experienced by the loved ones of patients were valid and the health professionals are determined to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

“I can say that it’s very difficult because a cancer [diagnosis] brings a lot of emotion and…we really have to ensure that the care is extended, not just to the patient, but you have loved ones who also are impacted by what is happening to their loved one,” she explained.

“Sometimes because of emotions, there may be perception and that’s part of the process of caring for people, especially [those] who have cancer, a very difficult diagnosis. But each patient treatment is individualised and certainly, the Kingston Public Hospital does have the requisite specialists to manage and to continue the care that the patient needs,” Dr Whylie told the Sunday Observer.