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Asthma attack leads to woman’s death at SGH

Family claims negligence

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Petronella Pettey Neptune...medics at the Scarborough General Hospital pulled her life support before consulting her family and giving them a chance to say goodbye.

Relatives of 52-year-old Petronella Neptune are now calling on the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) to launch a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death at the Scarborough General Hospital.

The relatives are claiming negligence on the part of hospital staff resulted in the Les Coteaux’s woman’s demise 10 days after she was admitted to hospital with an acute case of asthma.

What is even more troubling is that they claim medical officials pulled the plug on life support for Neptune, after she somehow ended up brain dead, without first consulting family members and giving them a chance to see their loved one before the life-support machine was disconnected.

Through tears, her sister Angela told Tobago Today that Neptune’s fiancé took her to the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department on December 27 after she came down with a severe asthma attack which was not easing when she used her inhaler.

“When he got to the hospital he hurriedly parked his vehicle and as he was struggling to get her through the doors, he fell,” she recalled.

She said the man, who did not want to be named, later told them when he fell he cried out to a nurse who was passing by and she casually told him: “She breathing man!” But Angela said things took a turn for the worst when Neptune was admitted to the ward and her fiance went to secure his vehicle and went back inside to her bedside. The man told relatives nothing had been done to assist Neptune and she was unconscious when he got to her bedside.

“At that point he began to raise an alarm but none of the nurses was in sight and he performed CPR, as he is a fireman with medical training,” Angela said.

She claimed when the man went in search of medical staff the nurses were eating black cake and drinking sorrel. The man allegedly began quarrelling with the nurses when one of them said they were accustomed to seeing Neptune for her diabetes problem. The man then told them that she was in fact there for a severe asthma attack and only then did they get up and go to assist her, Angela claimed.

However, Neptune’s condition did not improve and she was later placed in the ICU and put on life support.

“After she was admitted to the ICU she was heavily sedated, she never regained consciousness. After a few days, the doctor assigned to her told us that her chances were 50/50 due to the length of time her brain went without oxygen,” Angela said.

Angela said Petronella’s only daughter, Nichelle, received a call on January 5 from the doctor, who indicated that a CT scan showed the mother was brain dead and he was about to pull her off life support.

“We begged the doctor to wait until we visited, before taking her off the machines, but he said he was pulling the plug and if we wanted to see her we could do so at the morgue,” Angela said, adding the doctor heartlessly still carried out the act despite their appeals.

The family has since filed an official complaint with the TRHA.

Tobago Today contacted TRHA communications officer Ayanna Carter for comment on the case, but she forwarded the information to Deputy Chairman and acting Chief Executive Officer Ingrid Melville for a response. Up to press time no response was forthcoming.