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Five children rushed to hospital after ingesting rat poison at school

Five children rushed to hospital after ingesting rat poison at school

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The mothers of two pupils of the Calliaqua Anglican School are demanding answers from the school and Ministry of Health after their children and three others ingested rat poison while at school last Wednesday.

Tesha Joseph, mother of grade two pupil Nolisha Joseph, 8, said while the authorities {{more}} have apologized for what happened, she believes the matter should never have happened in the first place.

In an interview on April 30 at the Paediatric Ward of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH), Joseph said that around 2:43 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29, she received a telephone call from the headteacher of the Calliaqua Anglican School, stating that rat poison had been placed around the school compound and her daughter had ingested some.

“I was told that the Ministry of Health sent people to put rat poison around the premises and Nolisha and some other girls went and dig it up and they eat it,” Joseph said.

According to the visibly upset woman, she was told that a van would be transporting the students to the MCMH and she should go there to await their arrival. However, when she got to the hospital, she said her child painted a different picture of what had taken place.

“When I came here, the kids telling me something different than way the headteacher told me…”

Joseph related that her daughter told her that a pupil from a higher class found the poison, wrapped it in candy wrapper and gave the younger children to eat.

“The child gave my daughter and the other children the poison, but the difference that the headteacher tell me yesterday, it sound like my daughter actually went to dig it up and eat it. Up to now, I don’t know anything…

“None of the teachers are saying anything. The doctors are asking the children what kind of rat poison it is, but the persons in charge at the school has to know. They not saying anything,” Joseph said.

The concerned mother said while her daughter was not complaining of pain, she wants more concrete word on the condition of her child’s health.

“The doctors gave her injections and vitamins to flush out her system. They confirmed that she ingested the poison.”

It is Joseph’s view that the Ministry and the school acted irresponsibly in the matter.

“This is not a secondary school. It is a primary school that you have kindergarten and children under the age of 10,” she said.

Joseph also questioned why didn’t the Ministry of Health wait until Thursday afternoon to place the rat poison at the school, since Friday was a public holiday.

“I am really disappointed in them. They are not telling us anything and we don’t even know if they are getting to the bottom of this. I really don’t know what is going on. People from the ministry and the school came here, but they not telling us anything,” the annoyed mother said.

When contacted yesterday, Joseph said her daughter has since been discharged from the hospital and has returned to school. The other students have also been discharged, but it is not clear if they have returned to school.

Another mother, Nickiesha Ryan, whose daughter is 5-year-old kindergarten student Stahr George, said she, too, is mystified as to what is taking place.

Ryan told SEARCHLIGHT that she was not contacted by the school after her daughter came into contact with the poisonous substance.

“Is when I went to pick her up that a little girl from my daughter’s class told me that Stahr eat rat poison. I’m not even sure what is going on. The headteacher didn’t even say anything to me when I went into the office.

“All she told me is that she didn’t know how she was going to get onto me. How could she say that when I have how many numbers at the school to contact me,” an irate Ryan said.

According to Ryan, the headteacher told her a student tricked the young pupils into believing that candy was in the wrapper.

“I feel really disappointed. A whole big weekend is coming up. They could have set the rat poison after school let out. They told me the rat poison was set the day before. If I don’t get any answers, I am going to seek justice,” Ryan firmly said.

When SEARCHLIGHT visited the school on April 30, headteacher of the school Gillian Dougan said she would not be speaking to the media on the matter.

A well-placed source with knowledge of the situation told SEARCHLIGHT that following the incident, members of the Environmental Health Department returned to the school and were observed sweeping the compound.

“All of the holes were filled with rat poison and they were scattered all over. It was a lot. Some of the teachers had to throw sand and water all over the place to get rid of them.

Meanwhile, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, when contacted yesterday, told SEARCHLIGHT that an investigation has been done by the Environmental Health Department and it has been determined that established protocols were followed in terms of the placement of the pellets.

“However, it was unfortunate that the rat burrows were very big, so even though the workers put the pellets deep into the burrows, two of them were so big that the children apparently could still access it,” Keizer-Beache said.

According to the CMO, the ministry will be using the unfortunate incident as a learning experience and will increase their caution in the placement of the pellets.

She confirmed that all of the students had been discharged from the hospital and had their follow-up blood tests done yesterday to confirm that they are fine.

Asked if it wouldn’t have been better to wait until the Thursday to place the pellets at the school, Keizer-Beache said that those matters have been considered.

“We have been placing pellets for years and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened. With everything, we learn from experience and we could consider the possibility of better timing in terms of when we place these,” Keizer-Beache said.

She added that since the incident, Dr Del Hamilton has been in contact with the parents and has been ensuring that the children are treated.

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