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Why the silence?

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The family of young mother Latifa Maybury, who died from cancer after the disease went undetected throughout her pregnancy, has criticised Health Minister Jeanne Atherden for staying silent on the case.

And they claim their loved one was let down while still alive by others in the ruling One Bermuda Alliance, including former Premier Craig Cannonier and former Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin vehemently denied that charge yesterday, insisting she knew nothing of Mrs Maybury's plight while Health Minister.

As revealed by The Royal Gazette last week, Mrs Maybury was just 30 when she died of colorectal cancer at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in November. She was diagnosed with the terminal disease days after giving birth to her first child, son Khaleel, on May 9 last year.

Before conceiving, in August 2012, she visited the emergency room at KEMH with rectal bleeding and the doctor she saw concluded that she needed a screening test for colon cancer — but the “discharge sheet” from the hospital apparently never made it to her GP and the potentially life-saving test wasn't carried out.

Mrs Maybury's family claim she could still be alive if doctors had communicated properly and picked up on warning signs before and during her pregnancy. But Bermuda Hospitals Board and the patient's obstetrician and GP insist she did not fully disclose her symptoms and they gave appropriate care.

Ms Atherden, who became Health Minister in May, was asked by this newspaper to answer questions about the matter last week but a spokeswoman for her Ministry said: “It would be inappropriate for the Minister to make any comment on this case. All queries should be directed to the BHB.”

Keetha Lowe, Mrs Maybury's mother-in-law, said she was deeply disappointed in the Minister.

“I'm disgusted with Jeanne,” she said.

“Why is it inappropriate for you to comment?

“What are you going to do — tow the party line? You are not here to serve your party; you are here to serve the people of Bermuda first.”

She said though it was true that BHB was directly responsible for patient care, the Minister was responsible — as per the mission statement of her Ministry — for ensuring Bermuda had an effective healthcare system.

“As persons elected to protect and progress the interest of all Bermudians, I am stymied that not even death, let alone suffering, is able to mobilise our elected officials to represent the interest and well-being of the Bermuda public, whom they were elected to serve.

“These are top level paid posts, which emit a level of prestige, power, trust and accountability. Those who have been graced with such an opportunity should be effective in ensuring always that the best of practices are carried out by the care providers who fall under your portfolio.”

Ms Lowe said her daughter-in-law's case highlighted the lack of independent oversight for the Island's only hospital and the inadequate system that exists for making complaints.

And she suggested that some of the millions of dollars being spent on a new hospital wing would be better spent on improving KEMH's internal processes, such as ensuring discharge sheets were properly delivered, and the setting up of a health watchdog with the power to force improvements.

The grieving mother-in-law revealed that Mr Cannonier, her first cousin, was at Mrs Maybury's bedside when she died. But she said she had not heard from him since and was disappointed he had not raised the matter in Parliament or done anything else to help the family get answers.

She also claimed Ms Gordon-Pamplin knew about Mrs Maybury's plight during her stint as Health Minister, which ended in December.

But the Minister told this newspaper that was not the case and she first became aware of it on May 1 this year when she ran into Ms Lowe.

Afterwards, Ms Gordon-Pamplin sent an e-mail to Mr Cannonier, outlining the family's complaint with BHB and asking if he was aware of any resolution. She also contacted the chairman of BHB.

She told this newspaper: “There seems to be a broad assumption that matters before the [Bermuda Hospital] Board are handled by the [Health] Minister, but I am afraid that is not the case.

“At no time prior to May 1 was I made aware that there were allegations of anything inappropriate done by, or that there was any official complaint against, the hospital.

“I could not possibly have done any more for the specific situation since I did not know about it.

“Had Ms Lowe called me, I would have been made aware of her concerns. She never called me and I did not call her. I can only do what I know.”

The Public Works Minister said the family never appealed to her when she was Health Minister, adding: “I bend over backwards for anyone.”

It has not been possible to reach Mr Cannonier for comment.

The Ombudsman is investigating a complaint about BHB in relation to Mrs Maybury's case.

A BHB spokeswoman said last week: “We will not be commenting further in the media.

“We are and will continue to provide our detailed responses to Ombudsman as she continues her investigation. She has a legislated process to fulfil that is publicly accountable.”

Bermudian Kemar Maybury and his Moroccan wife, Latifa on their wedding day. Mrs Maybury died on November 18 last year. Just six months before, during childbirth, a massive tumour in her colon was discovered and she was declared terminally ill.
Jeanne Atherden
Premier Craig Cannonier
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin

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Published July 29, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated July 29, 2014 at 1:08 am)

Why the silence?

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