BY LR Liburd
The St. Kitts-Nevis Observer
The recent announcement of Dr. Patrick Martin being sent on pre-retirement leave, at the end of which his services as the country’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) will be terminated, has created quite a stir in the Federation and much debate on radio talk shows.
Chief among those who commented on the saga and highlighted a number of discrepancies is former National Security Minister Dwyer Astaphan.
Speaking on his weekly radio programme, The Operating Room’, Astaphan told listeners that stem cell is a highly controversial topic and he understood that a research project on it being conducted at the JNF General Hospital was approved by Cabinet.
He claimed that he was not attacking anyone but “I know when people become powerful they become paranoid too; if you say anything you are against them”, adding that he found little children and powerful people are the same when it comes to that.
Addressing the issue, Astaphan noted that Dr. Martin was unaware of the stem cell research project at the hospital and that there were violations of the Medical Act.
“I understand that the Cabinet took the decision. I understand that the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Patrick Martin, was unaware of it. If the Cabinet took the decision and the Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Board do not have the details insofar as certification is concerned, insofar as the conditions of the work are concern, insofar as who is involved and so forth, and clearly the responsibilities and the requisites under the Public Health Act and the Medical Act are not met, the law is being broken.”
He however declared that Cabinets could break the law, adding that a Cabinet decision should be lawful but it can be tested and found wanting in law.
Astaphan proclaimed that rooms at the hospital were allocated for the research project and he provided the name of an individual whom he claimed is suffering from multiple medical conditions and had recently received stem cell therapy in St. Kitts.
“So I am told now that Dr. Martin was told that three rooms in the private ward of the hospital had been allocated for this…to bring in people to do testing. In fact, one man called Mr. Westin, the same man who they found with the gun going out. He was picked up in a private plane, a private jet in Fort Lauderdale.
“I am told that when Dr. Martin went to the hospital, he asked the people where are your credentials and have you followed the due process and so forth. He was not satisfied and I think he told them that they can’t continue. That’s before Mr. Westin came down. So, apparently, the story is when Mr. Westin was brought he wasn’t taken to JNF.
“I am told that Mr. Westin in his comments to the police said he was brought here and was taken to Mary Charles Hospital to get the injection. Well, who administered the injection? Why they took him to Mary Charles? If Dr. Martin, the Chief Medical Officer, says you all cannot do this until and unless your paperwork is in order and we are satisfied that this process does not put us out of compliance with international best practices…it doesn’t mean that they can’t do it just at JNF, they can’t do it anywhere.”
Richard Westin resides in Kentucky, USA and was fined EC$10,000 on Friday (Jun. 17) after pleading guilty to filing a false customs declaration and importation of a weapon.
He had entered the Federation on Saturday (Jun. 11) aboard a private aircraft and was on Monday night (Jun. 13) attempting to leave when a shotgun was discovered in his luggage while he was preparing to board the same plane at the Basseterre Yu Lounge.
The former Government Minister pointed out that if the parties concerned were advised by the CMO to follow the laws of the land, then they should have done so.
He asked that if everything was in order, what was it that they had to hide, and suggested that they should have presented their project “to the people and let them assess it and let us facilitate it if it is something that does not put us out of compliance and something that could help our country go forward as a research and development centre in the world”
“Nobody is saying it is a bad thing,” he added. “It is how you go about it.”
In continuance of his comments on Westin’s visit to St. Kitts, Astaphan reiterated that the US citizen was taken to the Mary Charles Hospital in Molineaux and admitted that he received clinical application via injection.
“But the man, Mr. Westin, said he was taken from the airport to Mary Charles to get the injection. I am told that Mary Charles Hospital is under repairs, so I don’t know if that actually happened there. But he did say that he got the injection.”
He however stated that whether Westin got the injection at that hospital or anywhere, the question is: “Who gave it to him?”
He also asked: “And if they used a local doctor instead of the Brazilian doctor they had here, then why is the local doctor getting involved?”
The social commentator noted that the matter is of serious concern and it appears that Dr. Martin has once again offended someone, “because the thing about going home, you have a lot of leave accumulated”.
He added: “I don’t know if it had anything to do with his age, because they have people who are working in the system who are 10 years older than him and more; 12 years older than him, maybe more. I have no problem with that, but let’s not use age as a red herring. What is the reason he was sent home on pre-retirement leave? Something is wrong somewhere! And then days after, the Permanent Secretary was sent home.
“I am told that a lot of these decisions that were taken in the hierarchy of the Ministry of Health were decisions that were taken without the involvement of the Chief Medical Officer. How could that be? I am not accusing anybody, I am just saying what we are hearing.”
Astaphan suggested that the best way to treat with the issue is to have a public discussion of it or the Government should speak to the citizens and residents.
“And if we have it wrong,” he emphasised, “explain to us. And if we don’t have it wrong, that means they have it wrong. Fix it, because at least two other doctors were invited to act as Chief Medical Officer. Both older than Dr. Martin and both refused. In fact, one of them, I am told, said Martin is the best CMO that we ever had.”
Among the questions asked by media practitioners are:
- Why was Dr. Martin served a letter at 3:00 p.m. informing him to proceed on pre-retirement leave nine hours later?
- If Dr. Martin had not signed off on the stem cell research project, then who did?
- When was the project approved?
- Why was the JNF General Hospital chosen for the research?
- Who is financing the project?
- Why did the Government not inform the populace that stem cell research was being done at the JNF General Hospital?
- From where do the researchers get their material?
- Will the placenta from women who delivered at the hospital be used without their knowledge or compensation for stem cell clinical application?
- Will babies aborted at the hospital be used to provide clinical application?
- Why is the Government silent on the issues concerning Dr. Martin and the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Health who was sent on leave last Friday?
- Was the Medical Chief-of-Staff aware of the project?
- When will the Medical Board pronounce on this issue?