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Hospital accused of negligence after woman plunges to death

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 09, 2020

THE family of 43-year-old Carsha Johnson Sinclair, who died at the National Chest Hospital yesterday after plunging one storey through a garbage disposal chute from the ward on which she was admitted, is accusing the hospital of negligence.

Sinclair's husband, Dave, and her sister-in-law Lorraine Rowe believe Johnson Sinclair was left unattended from shortly after midnight to 5:30 am yesterday, when a nurse, who had gone to attend to her, discovered her missing.

Rowe is also upset at reports which allege that her sister-in-law committed suicide at the hospital, and was a COVID-19 patient. She told the Observer that Johnson Sinclair was, in fact, suffering from a long-standing lung issue, in which one of her lungs had collapsed and the other had “hardened”.

According to the relative, Johnson Sinclair tested negative for COVID-19 after being rushed to the hospital last Friday by her husband, because of critically low oxygen levels. She said the family felt it was best to seek treatment at the hospital where she had been admitted before, due to her condition. The police have also confirmed that it was not a suicide attempt, but said that the woman was attempting to “escape an isolation ward and fell into an air-conditioning extraction unit”.

However, Rowe insisted that Sinclair was not isolated because she had COVID-19, but rather to keep her protected from possible infection from other patients, given the seriousness of her condition.

“She was not a COVID-19 patient. She has had this condition for over 13 years... her oxygen was finishing quickly so her husband took her in,” Rowe said.

Information from the health ministry is that up to 3:00 pm yesterday, there was one patient in isolation for COVID-19 at the National Chest Hospital.

The upset relative, who blasted reports on Twitter as fake, said one of the side effects of Johnson Sinclair's medication is that it causes delirium, but that the hospital was lax in ensuring her safety as it appears there was no nurse monitoring the patient overnight.

“There is a nurse that monitors her; they were supposed to be monitoring her. She told them last night at 12:30 that she wanted to go to Half-Way-Tree. There is one door in and one door out [of the ward] and there was nobody at all in there with her,” Rowe said.

She noted that Sinclair was within view of the nurse's station if in bed, but that if she went to the bathroom she could not be seen. She also said they found items such as a stick and a glass bottle with olive oil in her room.

“She had a garbage bin in there that she could stand on,” her sister-in-law said.

Rowe also claimed that the trap door to the disposal chute was unlocked, giving Johnson Sinclair easy access.

“There is no padlock... She was delirious, so she opened the door and went through. When she [the nurse] realised what [had] happened is when she went there to get her tidy this morning at 5:20... All she saw when she went in was her slippers on the ground. There is a camera inside the room, she can't even walk for two minutes, she took off the oxygen,” she explained, adding that her sister-in-law's body remained at the scene until late afternoon yesterday.

Johnson Sinclair leaves behind two children, the elder of which is said to have quit her job recently to come to Kingston and care for her ill mother.

“This nuh make no sense,” Rowe stressed.

She told the Observer that up to yesterday evening, save for an apology offered by a doctor at the hospital, no official apology had been offered by the hospital administration.

“Nobody has apologised, away from the doctor... She said she was really sorry for what happened; nobody else has come to apologise to us, or anything,” Rowe said.

In a short statement yesterday, the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) said it had launched an investigation into Johnson Sinclair's death and is cooperating with the police.

“It is with deep regret that SERHA confirms the death of the patient under its care... More information will be provided as the investigations are still ongoing. SERHA offers its deepest condolences to the family at this time and will be providing further support to the family,” the regional health authority said.