Health ministry sidesteps issues in hospital death

Wednesday September 20, 2017 Written by Published in Local

Lawyer and Demo Party chief executive Wilkie Rasmussen is calling for an inquiry into the death of a female relative at Rarotonga Hospital on Thursday, September 7.


Rasmussen, who wrote about the death of Tongi Narito Rasmussen in his CINews column last week, says he will write to Health minister Nandie Glassie and to the Medical Council demanding an inquiry into the circumstances around his relative’s death.

Tongi Narito Rasmussen, 51, died the morning after being diagnosed with pneumonia, leaving behind a shocked husband and family.

On Wednesday September 6, says Wilkie Rasmussen, she had been told by a doctor at Tupapa health clinic simply to take Panadol and to go home and get some rest.

However, that evening, her fever and aches worsened and she was admitted to Rarotonga Hospital. She was then diagnosed with pneumonia, and died the following morning, leaving behind a shocked husband and family.

Now, says Wilkie Rasmussen, the family want some answers about their loved one’s death.

“We are still calling for an inquiry for our peace of mind and maybe for the benefit of the public.”

CINews last week emailed questions on the circumstances surrounding Tongi Narito’s death to Health secretary Liz Iro, and on Friday received replies from acting secretary and director of funding and planning, Roana Mataitini.

CI News asked whether the deceased should have been prescribed medication such as antibiotics, which had helped another flu-sufferer get through respiratory problems accompanying a bout of flu. The newspaper also asked why, if she was suffering from pneumonia, the patient had been given only Panadol.

Mataitini said the ministry would not disclose any patient’s medical information. Side-stepping the issue of the fact that Tongi Narito had not been diagnosed with pneumonia at the Tupapa Clinic, she said the ministry did not and had never had, any medicines that would effectively treat influenza virus.

“No such medicines exist.

“Of note is the misconception that influenza will be effectively treated with antibiotics, which is a myth. Influenza is a virus. Antibiotics do not kill viruses. They kill bacteria. The best protection against influenza is the influenza vaccine, the usage of which is very low in the Cook Islands.”

Asked if the Health ministry had any concerns about the adequacy of Tongi Narito’s treatment at Tupapa Clinic, in view of the fact that she was diagnosed with pneumonia at the hospital the same evening, Mataitini said the patient had been treated “as presented.”

She added 13 people had been reported with “influenza-like” illnesses on the week of August 21-27. Claims by a CINews source that the ministry had run low on medicines recently and was prescribing Panadol “for practically everything,” were untrue, she said.

“The Ministry of Health does not currently have a shortage of medicine – nor has it had one in the very recent past. We certainly do not have a shortage of medicines used to treat respiratory infections.”

Wilkie Rasmussen says Tongi Narito Rasmussen’s death is the second similar case he knows of involving the Penrhyn community.

He says two years ago, Nahuinga Bob Sonny, also died after going to the hospital complaining of a cold. Sonny was also only given Panadol and had died the day after being admitted to hospital.

However, Mataitini said the ministry was unaware of this particular case.

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