Sunday, April 6, 2014

Trinidad and Tobago: Guyanese National Dies from Heart Ailment Because He Was Not a Citizen of T&T

According to, clinical staff at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) are once again under scrutiny after Jeetindra Sookram, 35, died of a suspected heart attack an hour after he was denied treatment there because he was not a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.

Sookram was then rushed to Charlieville Medical Center for treatment, a private clinic, but died in the back seat of a Nissan Navarra in the clinic’s car park on Thursday (April 3). 

Physicians at Charlieville said his symptoms suggested he had suffered a massive heart attack, as he had complained about severe chest pains.

“I think it is negligence that caused him to not have a chance. I can’t understand how tourists can come to this country and get treated like this,” Sookram’s partner, Vidya Baichu, told The Guardian on Friday (April 4). 

Baichu and Sookram, farmers from the Guyanese island of Wakenaam, had been on a two-week vacation in Trinidad and were staying at the home of a friend, Melissa Deosaran.

COMMENT: Chairman of the North Central Regional Health Authority said that Sookram and Baichu had requested treatment on an emergency basis.

The incident comes weeks after the death of Simeon Cottle, an infant, five hours after his mother, Quelly Ann Cottle, underwent a C-section at Mt. Hope Women’s Hospital.

“Sookram could not sit and he could not stand because the pain was so intense. It kept getting worse so we took him to the hospital (EWMSC),” Baichu said. 

“When we got there, I went in with him and they took him straight to the place where they draw blood and did tests. When I went to register him, they asked for ID and I gave them his passport. They told me he is not a Trinidadian resident. Thus, all services would have to be paid in up-front."

Baichu was reportedly told that there is no policy that says that any non-national can be turned away from emergency care because they are unable to pay. Emergency care is available to all nationals and non-nationals. 

On the other hand, another Ministry of Health official said that the agency was yet to develop a policy with respect to healthcare for non-nationals for elective and emergency services.

So which is it? Treatment for everyone, regardless of nationality, or citizens of Trinidad and Tobago only?

So...if you seemingly visit Trinidad and Tobago, you have two choices:

1. Purchase international medical treatment insurance and evacuation coverage as I have suggested for all foreign travelers to do before departure; OR

2. Don't travel to Trinidad and Tobago until such time as the Ministry of Health clarifies whether all visitors and residents can be treated on an emergency basis, regardless of nationality, without having to pay for services up-front.

As a side note, it is not good if a person dies from a heart attack who is 35 years of age, although  it is presumed that farmers from developing nations are not able to receive pro-active and preventative medical treatment.