By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands said yesterday a formal investigation is underway after a patient complained about being ordered to remove his shoes by a doctor before receiving treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital's Dialysis Unit.
The letter of complaint was sent to the Public Hospitals Authority by dialysis patient Marvin Johnson, accusing Dr Frederick Smith, head of nephrology at PMH, of aggressively refusing to give him treatment because he wouldn't take off his shoes. Dr Smith said he was simply trying to enforce the unit's policies in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to patients and staff.
Asked if Dr Smith was just trying to enforce the rules, Dr Sands said, "That is most likely the situation, but when a concern is voiced it needs to be investigated and a determination made if there is merit and so on. That is due process.
"The process is not instantaneous or in a particular news cycle. Some very strong allegations have been made and posted on social media and printed in your newspaper, so it requires now that a proper and complete investigation be done to determine if there is merit, if so how much, what is the science, what is the appropriate approach, is there a compromise needed, but clearly this confrontation is not helpful."
Mr Johnson's son, Giavano Bowe, raised the issue in the press and advised his father to write an official letter of complaint against Dr Smith to PHA.
An excerpt from the letter of complaint reads: "Because of the statements made by Dr Smith, I am a patient placed in that position - in fear of losing my life. I do believe that Dr Frederick Smith, though being a private doctor has been hired by the government and is being paid through the government by way of taxpayer's dollars. And, as a taxpayer, it is his duty to facilitate all of my needs in regards to my health at all costs - not make me fearful of losing my life. To that end, it is evident that the oath has been broken by Dr Smith."
Yesterday, Dr Sands said "it's always unfortunate when things get into a confrontation."
Dr Sands continued: "And, I think it's really an issue of trying to look at the merits of any particular physician. There are policies and requirements to minimise several things like infection as well as damage to the equipment in the Dialysis Unit. These two things come together.
"There have been adjustments made and put forward to the hospital and to the Executive Management Committee and once those policies are put in place the idea is to try to get as much compliance. Ultimately the hope is that if there is strong opposition to it that a reasonable approach be made to try and get some resolution. So this is where we are."
Dr Sands said he is not going to get into any 'he say, she say' in the absence of a full and fair evaluation because he doesn't want to get into trouble for listening to one side of the story.