Trinidad senator wants investigation into cancer scandal
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday May 04, 2012 – Independent Senator Harold Ramkissoon is calling for a full and independent investigation to be carried out on what he described as "one of the greatest scandals in medical history".
He also called for those who were responsible for the overexposure to radiation of cancer patients at the Brian Lara Cancer Treatment Centre (BLCTC) to be brought to justice.
Speaking in the Senate on the Regional Health Authority Amendment Act, Ramkissoon said the Government needed to create a legal framework for the operation of such centres.
"There must be on-site inspection by Government officers and we need to have participation in an independent audit of the linear accelerator. It must be mandatory for any licence (to operate such a centre)," he said, adding: "Legislation is long overdue with harsh penalties."
Ramkissoon said while he commended Government for its willingness to assist three of the patients with further treatment abroad, the more fundamental question was whether taxpayers were expected to pay for the errors committed by the BLCTC.
"The State is supposed to pick up the tab. But I don't agree with this," he said. He suggested the Minister set up a meeting between the BLCTC and representatives of the patients to discuss the way forward.
Ramkissoon said the silence from the centre was "deafening", while the evidence against the centre was "near damning".
He said the hands of the State in all this were not very clean and it had made a number of blunders. Some of these were that Ministry of Health officials failed to act and ignored the pleadings of a highly trained oncologist, the State failed to pass the necessary legislation or to set up a regulatory framework, and failed to establish a watchdog body.
Ramkissoon even questioned whether there was a link between the BLCTC and the State.
Between the period June 2009 and 2010, 223 patients were overradiated and since then there have been 91 deaths.
Ramkisson said the centre committed grave acts of negliglence because the annual check on the machine was not done because the centre ignored PAHO warning about overradiation and because the centre breached its own procotol by not having the senior medical physicist on board.