A High Court judge yesterday chastised Regional Health Authorities in general and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) in particular over the practice of delaying and or seeking to frustrate and sometimes denying patients access to their own medical records.


In a High Court matter which had been filed by Martin George and Co on behalf of 19-year-old Tobago mother Chantal Williams against the TRHA, it was alleged that the TRHA was negligent in the management and treatment of Williams who had gone to the hospital at seven months pregnant, complaining of contractions from since the night before and who gave birth to a stillborn baby.


Williams disputed this, saying her baby was alive and moving after it was born.


George yesterday hailed the judgment of Justice Frank Seepersad in the Port of Spain High Court as a significant legal victory on some points because of the court’s very strong, clear and direct pronouncements on the question of access to medical records.


As part of his legal submissions filed before the court, George asked the judge to give a very clear directive and guidance for all health institutions on access by patients to their own medical records. Justice Seepersad in delivering judgment, though finding no negligence in the death of the baby, gave a very stern warning to hospitals that they ought not to seek to frustrate and/or deny patients access to their own medical records and that it was not proper to tell patients to apply through the Freedom of Information Act for such records.


He pointed out that it would be for the improvement of medical standards generally and for the benefit of the entire society if such records are made easily available to patients upon their request, either by themselves or by their attorneys. The judge described as semantics, a claim that records were applied for by a patient’s attorney and not by the patient herself. He said the patients have a right to get their records speedily and easily, whether application is made on their own or through their attorneys.


 Another significant aspect of the matter was the judge’s criticism of the fact that the TRHA produced and presented no post mortem report in evidence before the court when is was agreed by all that the report would have assisted in determining the cause of death and would have helped to shed light on the time of death. The TRHA’s senior consultant at the Accident & Emergency, Dr Jean Richards, had ordered a post mortem report and he admitted under cross-examination by  George that he never got it from the TRHA and had never seen it. It was never tendered in evidence and despite the TRHA making  Williams pay twice for the  report, the TRHA never gave it to her and never produced it in court and never gave any explanation as to why they did not produce it for the judge.


 The judge opined that in such a case Williams had a right to see the post-mortem report as at that traumatic time of losing her baby it could possibly have helped to bring closure for her and may even have avoided her filing her lawsuit against the TRHA .
Extracted From: Trinidad Express Newspaper

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