A thorough investigation should be mounted Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
August 3, 2002

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A FIVE-YEAR-OLD child was recently diagnosed as HIV positive while receiving medical attention at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and from all accounts it seems that the transmission of the virus to the child occurred during a blood transfusion at the institution.

This is a most unfortunate and scary development in which a young innocent child who was ill and was taken for medical attention ended up in such a tragedy.

The future of an innocent child has been jeopardised by the actions of others.

A thorough investigation should be mounted to determine the real cause of the tragedy, because such a situation should have never happened and all measures must be in place to guard against a recurrence.

Health Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, on a recent Government Information Agency (GINA) interview, gave the assurance that the standards at the blood transfusion department are comparable to what exists elsewhere, including North America.

He also pointed out that despite the sophisticated equipment and systems there have been cases in North America where people have become infected.

While it is reassuring that the standards and systems in place at the blood transfusion department at the GPHC match international standards, the point must be categorically acknowledged that not because it happens elsewhere it must happen here, especially when it is preventable.

If someone or some persons were negligent in this case, such negligence cannot be condoned or excused, because it could pose a threat of horrendous proportions.

Another point to note is one that deals with statistics - the number of blood transfusions per year in North America is many times more that what is done here and therefore the probability of something like this happening in North America should be higher, because, according to the Health Minister, the standards and systems in both situations are comparable.

Notwithstanding the debates and the intricacies of the tragedy facing the child, it is clear that the system at the GPHC department needs to be re-examined to identify any weaknesses and the appropriate remedial action taken.

No system is foolproof and that is why it is essential that systems are subjected to constant reviews and updates.

We must not wait until something terrible happens to institute checks - this must be an ongoing exercise.

It was, however, heartening to hear the announcement by Dr. Ramsammy that the Government will assume responsibility for the child's welfare - a small but significant consolation for the child and the parents.

But it must not only be the Government's responsibility.

A situation like this requires the responsibility of the entire society, because an innocent child is now faced with having to endure life-long suffering.