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Criminal Neglect at Gulf View Medical Center

March 06, 2006
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe

On Monday, February, 20, 2006, I accompanied Ms. Rose Janneire to the Gulf View Medical Center where was scheduled to do a minor procedure: that is, the removal of a bunion. We arrived at the facility at approximately 7.45 a.m. After being duly checked in, Ms. Janniere began the necessary preparation for her procedure. After waiting for about two an a quarter hours, she inquired as to the cause of the delay; why in fact, the attending anesthesian, Dr. Crisen Roopchand, had not come in to administer the anesthesia or begin preparation for the procedure only to be told that Dr. Roopchand had left the premises. On further inquiry, she was told that Dr. Roopchand had refused to administer the anesthesia to Ms. Janneire because, as he says, "she is PNM." I could not believe my ears. Again I asked again, why Dr. Roopchand didn't administer the anesthesia, only to be told: "Dr. Roopchand says that he would not attend to no PNM." Ms. Janniere had to wait another hour until the attending physician administered the anesthesia by himself and proceeded with the operation. In itself, that might have been a dangerous thing. Thank God, she got through her procedure safely.

Needless to say, I could not believe that such an incident could occur in Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2006. Such behavior might have happened in South Africa during the apartheid era or in the southern states of the United States prior to 1965, not in Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2006. I could not believe that in Trinidad and Tobago, a liberal democratic society in which physicians take a Hippocratic Oath and are dedicated to serve all patients, regards of their colour, race, or political beliefs, that a physician should simply walk out of a hospital and say that he was not going to attend to any PNMinte. If there were any doubts, we now know why the Hon. Patrick Manning, PM of Trinidad and Tobago, elected to do his surgery in Cuba; why he goes there every year to be checked and why even to become sick is a liability in the society.

Such behavior cannot be accepted in Trinidad and Tobago. It could have happened to me; it could have happened to any member of the PNM; or it could have happened to any member of the public. One could have been in an accident, needed immediate care only to be told: "We do not serve Africans [they may have used another denigrating term] or we do not serve PNMites here."

Dr. David Ali, owner of the facility, ought to conduct an immediate investigation into his incident and make a public report of his findings. I also call upon the Medical Board and the Minister of Health to do the same. Such behavior cannot be tolerated in Trinidad and Tobago, especially in 2006. This is not what we have fought for over the past century; it is not the profile we need of a caring, tolerant society in which racial prejudices, partisan politics and religious bigotry should be exempt from the field of medicine.

Let us put a stop to it now.

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