Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Doha fire: Parents make complaint about hospital

The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied
The last picture of the Weekes triplets shows Winkie (left), Jackson and Lillie at the daycare in the Doha mall hours before the deadly inferno. Photo / Supplied

The Doha hospital where Kiwi triplets Lillie, Jackson and Willsher Weekes were treated is being investigated following a complaint by their parents.

Nineteen people including the 2-year-old triplets died in the Villaggio Mall fire on May 28 last year.

Their parents Martin and Jane Weekes sent a letter of complaint to Hamad Medical Corp (HMC) following the tragedy alleging a number of failings by the hospital they said let them down "in what was the worst time of our lives", the Doha New website reported.

Among the allegations were that triplets were not embalmed properly before leaving Qatar, meaning that their bodies had deteriorated by the time they arrived home in New Zealand.

"It was appalling. They said it had been done and it hadn't," Mr Weekes told APNZ today.

The couple also said; the ambulance that took their daughter Lillie to the hospital did not have pediatric oxygen masks and the adult mask kept slipping off Lillie's face, there was a delay in them being told their daughter had died; no autopsy appeared to have taken place in spite of assurances in the ongoing trial that this had been done.

"It's time to face up to the reality. We don't want any other family to suffer the way we did. If you can't evacuate a mall and you can't handle an incident that affects 19 people, how is the health system there going to deal with an incident at an airport or a stadium?" Mr Weekes said.

The Joint Commission International, a healthcare accrediting body, is now investigating the hospital.

The complaint had the potential to "do serious damage to HMC's reputation as one of the region's premiere healthcare providers", said commission officials.

David Astley, group chief at the hospital, responded to the Weekes' letter last July, apologising for their experience, saying "this was the first incident of its kind here", and it had started a "lengthy investigative and learning exercise", Doha News said.

The Weekes family said they are still waiting for further communication more than six months later.

In a report New Zealand National Examiner in Embalming Gavin Murphy, who was commissioned by the Weekes to examine the children's bodies, said he was surprised to see that there were no identifying points indicating the children had been embalmed.

"Relying on refrigeration alone for preservation does require more luck than process and skill."

"We were extremely disappointed with the quality of care the three children received in Qatar. As a minimum, arterial embalming should have taken place to ensure maximum preservation," he wrote.

He also found no obvious signs autopsies had taken place.

- APNZ

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