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Absence of medical reports frustrates judge

Wednesday, January 16, 2013    

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THE burning issue of the archaic system of recording injuries at the Kingston Public Hospital came to fore again last Thursday inside the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court after a doctor was arrested on a warrant after failing to heed a subpoena issued by a magistrate.

The doctor, Gwendolyn Thomas, was summoned to explain to the court why a medical report for an assault, which occurred on July 7 last year, was not yet ready.

Thomas had failed to appear on the set date giving the magistrate no option but to issue a warrant for her arrest.

The court was informed that the investigating officer in a case against Dean Martin Morgan, who is charged with assault occasioning bodily harm, made repeated visits to the hospital but came up empty-handed each time as the certificate was not signed by the doctor who examined the complainant.

Last Thursday, Thomas appeared in the dock before Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey and explained that she could not find the docket with details of the extent of the complainant's injuries.

"Doctor, if you sit in this room long enough, you will see how many matters come up every day and the medical certificate is not ready. People are in custody, complainants are frustrated. It is just not good enough. I know the difficulties, but once it comes from the police, it is not a favour it becomes a responsibility," RM Pusey said sternly.

Thomas was clearly ruffled by the magistrate's curt manner.

"I can understand your frustration, your honour, but you can understand mine. When a docket is requested it goes to the legal desk. A consultant can sign on behalf of the doctor,' Thomas replied.

"It is not admissible,' RM Pusey shot back.

"At the KPH it will never happen," the doctor replied.

"Why?" RM Pusey asked.

"Because we have death and injury on top of each other. A shift is eight hours and sometimes we go to 12," Thomas replied.

But Thomas' explanation held little water with the judge, who was clearly agitated.

"I am past the point of frustration. People are suffering in custody with the presumption of innocence. I deal with citizens whether they are criminals or complainants. It is not fair. Doctor imagine your little boy is in school and somebody trouble him and him take a chair a lick down the person and him end up in custody. He will stay in custody until the medical certificate is available so a judge can know what to do with him. Just think about that," RM Pusey said.

Thomas was then given bail in the sum of $1,000, in her own surety, and bound over to return to court last Monday with an update on the status of the medical certificate.

Last Thursday, the Jamaica Observer tallied at least eight wounding or assault cases where no medical certificate was available, which resulted in the matters being put off further -- clogging an already overburdened legal system.

Last week, another doctor, Konrad Lawson, was also summoned to court to explain why no medical certificate was available for a matter which was before the court since February 2011.

Despite Health Minister Fenton Ferguson announcing last year that a move would be made to implement a modernised system of record-keeping in hospitals islandwide, no word has come as to how soon the system would come on stream.

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