Family of Sharezer Mendonca to sue GPHC

– wants licences taken away from medical personnel involved

By Samuel Sukhnandan

Now that the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) has completed its investigation into the death of Sharezer Mendonca, 6, who is one of three children that died after receiving pre-chemotherapy treatment at the hospital in January, the family plans to sue the institution for wrongful death.
Guyana Times spoke with the aunt of Sharezer, Sherry Ann Mendonca, on Sunday who related that they are going ahead to file legal action since they are of the view that her untimely death could have been avoided had the doctors and nurses paid careful attention to what they were doing.
At a press conference on Friday, it was revealed that instead of intrathecal administration of the drug vincristine, the doctors who treated Mendonca and two others, administered it intravenously. It was this that led to the adverse reactions of those three children and ultimately, their deaths.
“What they basically called us to tell us is that the matter was concluded by the Ministry of Public Health and it came back as the same, that she died because the drug was not properly administered, and that the personnel was sent on administrative leave since the incident,” the aunt explained.
However, Mendonca claimed that every day after her niece’s death, they still saw most of the doctors who were directly involved in the case reporting for work as per usual. Interesting also, was Mendonca’s claim that no representative from the Ministry or PAHO was present during the meeting.
She recalled that representatives from both organisations were present before the investigation commenced, but when the results were shared with the family on Friday, only the Medical Director, Chief Executive Officer, the quality control personnel and another hospital official were present.
Now that the GPHC has come under the spotlight for this issue, Mendonca said that she would advise anyone seeking medical care at the GPHC to be extremely careful. “Too many things are happening and they are saying it was a mistake like it’s a norm. That was my niece! And people have families.”
She continued: “While it remains the primary healthcare facility in the country, people must be careful because they would be surprised to go in there with a minor issue and they could end up with a larger problem by the time they are finished there. You could lose your life”.

Mendonca said that her family plans to push for the licences of those directly involved in her niece’s death to be revoked so that they do not practice medicine again. She said it could happen to anyone and this is the best way of ensuring that it does not happen to anyone else.
According to her, based on information she has received, that decision will have to be made by the Medical Council of Guyana. Mendonca, therefore, believes that it is the responsibility of the Council to ensure that all medical personnel practice medicine in the most professional and safest way possible. And unless they are reprimanded for shoddy work, these issues will continue to happen.
“We want their licences to be taken away, so as to set an example so that something like this wouldn’t happen again. They would have to think twice before doing something. No malpractices should be allowed to continue….it should leave little room for them to make mistakes because they are dealing with people’s lives and people loved ones,” she asserted.

On the other hand, the GPHC has taken full responsibility for Sharezer’s body being given to the wrong family resulting in an unauthorised autopsy. Eventually, the family had discovered the body, which was on its way to Parika, being transported by a family from Bartica in place of another deceased young girl. Mendonca said the hospital officials have made a commitment to review this process.
The family is now waiting for the GPHC to release all the medical records so that it could get a private pathologist to do an independent assessment of the body to determine the cause of death. Once that is completed, they will be able to file for a death certificate and proceed with the lawsuit.
Mendonca has claimed that they were offered compensation from a senior hospital official to bury the matter. But the family said they are not looking for any financial compensation, rather, they want to know what really led to Sharezer’s untimely demise.
Sharezer was taken to the Paediatric Ward of the GPHC on January 3, 2019, where she was administered with an injection before undergoing treatment, but became unresponsive. She was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where her face started to swell and she later succumbed.
During the same period which Mendonca was admitted, three-year-old Seegobin visited the said medical institution for cancer treatment, but after returning home, her condition deteriorated. The leukaemia patient usually received treatment at the hospital. Another child, Curwayne Edwards, also passed away during this period after undergoing similar treatment.