L-R: Mrs. Cedorene Patricia Malone-Smith, Director of Hospital Services; Bishop John Cline, Chairman of the BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) Board; and Dr. June Samuel, Chief of Medical Staff.
Photo Credit: Gordon French/BVI Platinum News
BVI Health Services Authority (BVIHSA) officials believe that Peebles Hospital was a "good scapegoat" in the controversial alleged disappearance of test results related to the alcohol level of the driver in the Paraquita Bay traffic accident that left 21 year-old HLSCC student Tofficah Thompson dead.
During a recent press conference, officials were asked by BVI Platinum News if they have since tried to ascertain what went wrong.
"What went wrong is that somebody misplaced it and it was in the hospital, but we make a very good scapegoat because when they came to ask for it again, we were able to give it to them again. Notice the again part," Mrs. Cedorene Patricia Malone-Smith, Director of Hospital Services responded.
She added that she does not know who misplaced the results, whether it was the Police or the courts, but when the results were requested again, it was produced for a second time.
The results were deemed to be missing and were never presented at the March trial in the High Court which ended in the driver, Wendell Varlack being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving as a result of April 13, 2010 accident. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by Justice Rita Joseph-Olivetti.
Sources told BVI Platinum News that the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) along with staff at the hospital had made several attempts to locate the results, but were unsuccessful in doing so prior to the start of the trial.
Last month, BVI Platinum News enquired about the whereabouts of the results. On May 23, the BVIHSA Public Relations Department stated that the results were never missing and were at the hospital all along.
On May 24, the Police Information Office confirmed that "the report of the results of Varlack's test was very recently received from Peebles Hospital". The Information Office declined to give a specific date when the RVIPF received the results.
In her written judgment on the case released last month, Justice Joseph-Olivetti noted that several witnesses, including Police Officer Gilbert testified at trial that they noticed Varlack staggering and that he smelt of alcohol. As a result, the Judge noted that Officer Gilbert asked Varlack to undergo a blood and urine analysis and he complied. This was in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Road Traffic Act, Cap 218.
According to the written judgement, although the tests were done and results formulated, no report of the results was made available at trial.
"Dr. Corinthia Dupuis, the Anatomical Pathologist testified that she received the samples, tested and recorded the results and kept them on file. She did not prepare a formal report at the time. Subsequently, when the Police requested her to do so she was unable to locate the results. We did not hear of any searches or investigations having been made to locate the missing results. Ms. Dupuis herself had by that time left the employ of the BVI Health Services Authority," Justice Joseph-Olivetti pointed out.
In summing up her judgement, the Judge said that she felt constrained to mention several pertinent matters and one was the apparent "failure of the authorities to carry out investigations into the missing files to ascertain what happened to the test results of Varlack".
"Files do not simply grow feet and abscond," the Judge noted.
Chairman of the BVIHSA Board, Bishop John Cline said of course they are concerned about accountability. Bishop Cline said that he was unaware of the particular case.
"If you look at our core values, the second one after leadership is accountability...We want to know if something went wrong, who is responsible, why did it go wrong and what can we do to fix it so whatever the case may be, without addressing any particular case we are concerned if things go wrong. We need to understand why they went wrong and what we can do to fix it," Bishop Cline stated.
The contents of the Peebles Hospital report on the test have not been revealed.