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Douglas apologises for hospital clash, knocks PNP for ‘curious’ probe

People’s National Party (PNP) Councillor Kari Douglas yesterday apologised for her role in a confrontation with a doctor at Bustamante Hospital for Children on Sunday morning.

At the same time Douglas, who represents the Trafalgar Division in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, took issue with a statement from the Opposition party that it is conducting an inquiry into the incident “with a view to determining an appropriate course of action”.

“The statement from the PNP is curious, given that there are way more serious incidents involving party members which the party has not probed or chosen to issue a statement regarding,” said Douglas who had supported Peter Bunting’s leadership challenge to PNP President Dr Peter Phillips a few months ago.

The challenge, which split the party into two camps — Phillips’s OnePNP team and Bunting’s Rise United group — ended with Phillips retaining his presidency by a mere 76 votes at the party’s 81st annual conference in September.

Since then, divisions have been simmering in the party, and yesterday Douglas said she was “not surprised by the statement from the PNP leadership, especially given that some senior members of what was the OnePNP campaign team actively agitated for publication of the initial story about the incident which contained several falsehoods”.

Douglas had got into a verbal clash with a doctor at the hospital after she took her eight-month-old son there because he had a high fever.

In her statement yesterday, Douglas explained that the physical engagement which occurred during the incident was not initiated by her. She said that she had “initially exercised patience but was provoked by insensitivity and a lack of compassion”.

Douglas said she was “observing how the situation unfolds and reserves the right to press charges, if necessary”.

The councillor said that due to a number of factors which require urgent attention, altercations within the public health system are not infrequent and often go unnoticed.

However, she said that she recognises that as a public official her “responsibility to show decorum and exercise great restraint is that much more”.

Despite that, however, Douglas said she “wishes to unreservedly apologise” for the aspect of her conduct where she entered the room where the medical practitioner was and stood in front of the door for a period of approximately a minute while demanding answers about the deteriorating condition of her child.

She also called for “urgent action to be taken to reduce waiting time and improve professionalism and service delivery in the health sector”.

The PNP statement, which was issued by Chairman Fitz Jackson, who had supported Phillips in the leadership race, said that reports of a two-hour shutdown of the hospital on account of a stand-off between Douglas and the doctor are of great concern.

Jackson said while the PNP understands the distress Douglas was facing with the illness of her child in an environment of the dengue crisis, it cannot condone the reported verbal abuse or alleged attack on hospital staff.

“All parents have a duty to ensure the best available care for their children, but no one has the right to abuse any one,” Jackson said, adding that “medical personnel across the island are under undue stress and have to work for long hours in less than ideal conditions and must be treated with respect at all times”.

Jackson said the dengue crisis, shortage of bed space, the unavailability of medicine and medical supplies, the shortage of nurses, doctors and other medical and ancillary staff are real factors that add to the tensions in the sector. He said these must be addressed urgently as part of making public hospitals efficient and user-friendly.