The Jamaican diaspora is mourning the tragic passing of Jodian Fearon, a pregnant woman, whose controversial death has gained local and international attention since last week.
As reported by her family, the 23-year-old expectant mother went into labour on April 23 and was admitted to the Andrews Memorial Hospital (AMH) in Kingston, where she was already scheduled to have her C-Section. Fearon reportedly had flu-like symptoms including shortness of breath – a symptom of labor. She was denied services at the hospital after the medical staff feared that she had the highly contagious COVID-19.
She was then referred to the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) but that facility also said they were unable to take her. The story of the woman came to light in a TVJ news broadcast on Friday night, April 24.
The story, as reported by TVJ, said the pregnant woman who was in labour was taken to the country’s largest maternity facility, Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) but they advised her doctor that they did not have room there to admit her.
As the doctor and family continued searching for a place for the woman to have her baby, Spanish Town Hospital, St Catherine offered to accept her. Fearon was forced to go through with natural birth although her personal doctor had concluded that she wouldn’t be able to do so, hence the scheduled C-section. After giving birth to her daughter, she was transferred to UHWI because of complications.
The following morning, on April 25, Fearon passed away from cardiac arrest. A day later, Fearon’s test results came back negative for COVID-19.
The hospitals and medical professionals involved have received widescale backlash from Jamaicans at home and abroad. The hospitals have also been accused of negligence, which ultimately resulted in Fearon’s death. Via social media, her mother, a Jamaican living in New York, had begged for the ministry of healthy to investigate and aid her a day before her death, but her requests went unanswered.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton expressed condolences to family and friends of Fearon. He says an investigation regarding her untimely passing was ordered.
“I have asked for a thorough investigation to take place and as soon as the results are available, which I hope will be very soon, we will make the information public. In the meantime, we will give whatever support is necessary to the newborn child who I understand is stable and in hospital,” Tufton said.
Jodian’s death has confirmed shortcomings of the Jamaican healthcare system and has put the vulnerability of pregnant women during the pandemic at the forefront of the national news.
While her family and friends in Jamaica and Florida mourn her passing, they have asked the diaspora for privacy. On Sunday night, the family said it intends to have an independent pathologist at her autopsy. They also asked that Fearon’s name not be used for partisan political means.
Hospitals Playing The Blame Game
As an investigation is launched in Fearon’s death, two hospitals involved in her passing are now tossing blame back and forth regarding which medcial staff should be held responsible.
In a statement, the Andrews Hospital has denied the accusations of negligence, saying that the UHWI is to be blamed for not answering appeals for assistance. Andrews has also blamed a team of anaesthesiologists working with Fearon’s gynaecologist for refusing to engage because of fears that the patient might have had COVID-19.
A medical source at the UHWI told the Gleaner, “UHWI was consulted, and our team of specialists here were in talks with Andrews. We were told that the baby would be delivered at Andrews and the patient sent to us in the morning. UHWI was never asked to admit an expectant mother”.
The family has been urged to make no further comments, as it is now a legal matter. Jodian would have celebrated her 24th birthday on April 28.