Just over a year ago, Sharmin Lewis, a mentally and physically challenged woman was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC]. The woman who was 48 years old at the time was suffering from anaemia, urinary tract infection and haematoma [a solid swelling of clotted blood within the tissues] to the head.
A sister, Kim Lewis, attributed the head injury to a fall down a flight of stairs. She claimed to know because it was with her that Sharmin lived at Lot 44 Fort Ordinance Housing Scheme, East Canje, Berbice.
Before being transferred to the GPHC the woman was a patient at the New Amsterdam Hospital. There were suspicions that the woman was abused.
Moreover, when the woman was transferred to the GPHC her case was not taken lightly. In fact this publication understands that it was quickly brought to the attention of a Medical Social Worker.
Speaking to this publication recently Ms. Marcia Fredericks, the hospital’s Medical Social Worker who dealt with the case, said, “As a social worker this is how I looked at it…Often when you look at anaemia it is neglect. When you look at urinary tract infection, you are looking at neglect too, because if it is treated you won’t even have to be hospitalised.”
“When it comes to the haematoma there is also a big question mark…she could have been hit and got that injury as well but we don’t know.” According to Fredericks, who had observed the woman shortly after being admitted at the hospital, “She [the patient] could have barely say one or two words when she came …she behaves like a child even though she is an adult.”
“Based on the information we got, the woman was born the way she is but her condition was compounded because of neglect. She can’t walk and it appears that she was just neglected…It seems she wasn’t able to exercise and she lost her muscles as result,” the Medical Social Worker shared.
Relating the details of the case Fredericks said that the patient, who arrived at the GPHC on September 14, 2017, was ready to be discharged on September 20, 2017. A call was made to the relative who had accompanied Sharmin to the hospital.
Fredericks said that when contacted, the woman’s sister [Kim Lewis] said that she would visit the hospital within the very week to collect her sister who was showing signs of improvement.
But even after a week elapsed the sister still had not arrived. Fredericks revealed that even after numerous additional calls the patient’s relative still hadn’t turned up to collect her.
“At one point I called the sister’s number and the person who answered the phone promptly informed me that ‘this is not Kim’s Lewis’ phone…she lost her phone’. I didn’t even get a chance to ask who I was speaking to,” recalled Fredericks.
That would be the last time that the Medical Social Worker was able to make contact with Sharmin’s sister on her 602-6994 telephone number which has ever since been going straight to voicemail.
According to Fredericks, it is particularly important for the hospital to reunite patients with their family since the hospital is always in need of space for patients who need medical care. “Now we have this patient still at this hospital, taking up space when that patient could have been home with their family….” Fredericks said.
She informed too that each day the woman remains hospitalised she is more exposed to the many infections that are known to be in hospital settings.
Fredericks said that the hospital had even started to locate other family members in hope that the woman could be removed from the hospital. At least three other siblings have since been found, none of whom have reportedly been willing to accept the woman.
“Three other siblings we have learnt of – Natasha and Lubert Lewis also of Berbice, and Yonette Lewis of Agricola. It is not that this woman only has one sibling and maybe she is encountering problems but this woman has a number of other relatives who are refusing to take care of her,” said Fredericks.
According to the Medical Social Worker, although hospital officials were long concerned about the failure of the woman’s family to accept her into their home, it was only later that she was able to confirm that the woman was deliberately abandoned at the hospital.
“It was an aunt who was visiting from overseas. She said that it was pre-planned to leave her [Sharmin] at the hospital. The aunt said that she was in no position to take care of her since she is living overseas,” said Fredericks.
Since the woman’s relatives do not seem willing to accept her, the Medical Social Worker said that the hospital has been diligently trying to find alternative accommodation for her. This is particularly important Fredericks said because the hospital is always in dire of need for patient in need of medical care.
“We provide care at the hospital for people who are sick and need care at a hospital but this woman she needs to be cared for in a homely environment not at an open hospital like this,” said Fredericks.
Attempts to have the woman placed at a number of institutions including the Hugo Chavez Home, the Night Shelter, the Palms and even the Cheshire Home which is in fact intended to cater to persons who are physically challenged have been futile, Fredericks said.
The GPHC has been continuously battling to combat the issue of patients’ abandonment, a situation that it hopes to tackle by naming and shaming family members who refuse to accept them back home.
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