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Verna returns fire on Fuad

‘What is the cost of a child’s life?’
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Former government minister Verna St Rose Greaves

Public Affairs Editor



Nasty, ugly, callous, egotistical and unbecoming of a minister and medical practitioner. Those were some of the adjectives used by former government minister, social worker and friend of the sextuplets’ family, Verna St Rose-Greaves, as she fired back at Health Minister Fuad Khan’s statements that the babies’ father, Kieron Cummings, was ungrateful.


Following revelations in a T&T Guardian exclusive story last week that doctors at Mt Hope had recommended overseas treatment for the mother, Petra Lee Foon, Cummings told the T&T Guardian that he wished they had sought medical treatment abroad. He said he was not satisfied with the aftercare for his children, two of whom (the youngest, Paeton Christopher and the eldest, Kaelon Nasir) have died. A third, Persia Meleigh, is still hospitalised.


“We’re now hearing that they (the parents) are ungrateful,” said St Rose-Greaves during an interview on Friday. “We’ve heard from the minister that it was not a real pregnancy, not a real birth. “That behaviour is very unbecoming for a minister, far more from a medical practitioner. This is all about ego. The minister’s interest in having the children born here was about him wanting to look good. He didn’t think further than that and he should have.


“We have a young mother who will obviously be having post-partum challenges, who had a trying pregnancy, parents who have lost two children in two weeks, worrying about a third, and have three at home to care for as new parents—and no one paying attention to that.”


Saying she considers the sextuplets a beautiful gift to the nation and an opportunity for the public health system to establish best-practice protocol in dealing with all pregnancies, St Rose-Greaves said Khan is responsible for setting a negative tone for public discussion about the babies. “I didn’t want this to be a street fight. The minister has squandered the goodwill about these children, just like the Government squandered the goodwill of the 2010 general election.”



She said the family has been and remains grateful to the doctors, nurses, consultants and ancillary staff at the Mt Hope Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and knows that they all did their best. “Even the people cleaning the wards and serving the food were thrilled by the expected delivery. They treated the couple very well and we could not help but admire them. That has not changed. 


“We didn’t have the equipment but we got some of that—but if you didn’t have the experience then you cannot expect the expertise. From very early the doctors admitted they did not have the experience. The challenge is that you cannot get out of something what is not there. “The couple didn’t get up one morning and decide they wanted to go away; it was on the advice of people in the health system itself. If he didn’t want to carry them abroad, why not bring in specialists?”


The head midwife at the hospital told I95.5FM on Friday that she and the nurses were hurt by Cummings’ statement. “Why are they and the minister taking this so personally? What is their hurt, compared to the parents’ pain of losing their children?” asked St Rose-Greaves.



 HDC house
She said Khan’s comments about the couple being “given” an HDC home showed he did not understand the rights of citizenship. “The Government didn’t give them a house. They have to pay $375,000 for it. They are citizens, they qualify for a home, they submitted their application years ago, and every citizen has a right to apply for and be considered to own a home. “Is he saying that because they were good to the couple, if they (the couple) are not comfortable with something, they should shut up and not express that?”



On the money expended on the sextuplets, St Rose-Greaves said she wanted Khan to quantify the cost of a child’s life. “Seeing that he is quantifying how much money was spent on the delivery and care, what is the price of a child’s life? “This is not a case of the equipment brought in and they went home with it or threw it away.


“The equipment was needed in the system. Perhaps the minister can give the public an outline of when the equipment was bought, when it arrived and how it was utilised for the children. Let him answer that. “He makes me wonder how much of a priority children are.



Nearly $1 million a month spent in rental of One Alexandra Place for the past three years and no one has occupied that building because it’s seen as belonging to a political party. How do these children compare to $10 million to bring Shaq, to the millions spent on PR gimmicks and fancy functions with food and drinks?


“Let him release the figures spent on (Patrick) Manning and (Justice Wendell) Kangaloo (who was injured in a car accident on May 20 and flown to Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, and then to the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago). “The Children’s Authority cannot get the money it needs because of quibbling over rent because the building allegedly belongs to the wrong people...people are flying to see the world on taxpayers’ money.”



Ethics and fertility treatment
She questioned the ethics of Khan publicly revealing details of Lee Foon’s medical records. “The fact that he was willing to go public with the girl’s private medical information said a lot about him. It is not his place to be so confrontational. But perhaps I am expecting from him what he does not have to give.


“How does a medical practitioner not understand the ethics of sharing confidential information?  He keeps talking about fertility drugs to bamboozle the public that this girl went looking to have six children, and he knows the truth and he knew it from day one.”



 Confidence in health system
“How could we have confidence when our maternal and infant mortality rates are so astounding? We all know about women going in (to hospitals) healthy to have babies and coming out dead, without their wombs, or without their babies. Delivery rooms have turned into morgues. So it’s not about not having confidence; it’s dealing with our reality.


“If he saying we don’t have confidence in the system, why do ministers and leaders leave for care elsewhere? If they have confidence in the system, I am challenging them to go through what people go through daily. Go sit down in the hospitals and scrub bench like other people. We have young, good, caring doctors in the system but with mentors like Fuad, they will become jaded, callous, cold, uncaring, selfish, and egotistical. I trust the minister puts his business in place while he’s a minister because when he is no longer he will see how it’s not easy for people who don’t have.”



Care plan and counselling
Answering statements by Khan and Dr Shehenaz Mohammed (chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority) that deaths among multiple-birth babies are not uncommon, St Rose-Greaves said she was flabbergasted that that was the only standard to which they were aspiring. “So we only want to conform to statistics on deaths? We don’t want to set a higher standard? And what about the multiple births where all the children are alive and well? Octomom had eight and they’re all alive.


Khan, she pointed out, “talked about congenital malformation in the children. Where is his proof of that? Were post-mortems done to determine cause of death?” She said the nursing council was to devise a care plan for the babies. “Where is that plan? When was Dr Mohammed put in charge and when did they go into full gear? Let him talk about that, since he is so free with information.


“The couple is grieving; what has been done to help them with their grief and loss? What was the plan for the counselling? Who did it? What was their area of expertise? How many sessions? Which family members were counselled? What were the objectives and the outcomes of the counselling? Let him tell me that.”


Saying that she and the family will not be intimidated by Khan, St Rose-Greaves said aggression among young people is condemned but the two parents, who are gentle and soft, are being verbally beaten up because they are not aggressive. “I heard the midwife say on I95.5FM that Kieron is being misguided.



The minister seems to think that Kieron is my nephew. I want him to know he doesn’t have to worry about Kieron being my nephew. I have nephews and nieces all over Trinidad. They serve meals in the Diplomatic Centre, they are in the coast guard, army, police, among the Prime Minister’s security, in every institution and community in this country. So Kieron should be the least of his worries.”


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