Two doctors to face trial for death of Cebu governor's brother

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8) – Two doctors will be put on trial for alleged medical negligence in the death of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia's younger brother.

In a 34-page resolution dated March 1, the Cebu City Prosecutor's office found probable cause to indict Dr. Elfleda Hernandez and Dr. Yvonne Bettina Montejo for the death of former Barili town mayor Marlon Garcia.

Prosecutors recommended suing the two doctors for reckless imprudence resulting to homicide.

"Verily, the causation of death as having been admitted as hospital-acquired bacterial infection lends credence to the complainant's allegation that there was lack of standard care expected of the attending physicians," read the court resolution penned by Asst. City Prosecutor Verna Merelos and approved by Cebu City Prosecutor Liceria Lofranco-Rabillas.

The younger Garcia died on Sept. 6 last year of "septic shock secondary to catheter related blood stream infection, ventilator associated pneumonia." His death happened after his recovery from COVID-19, while being confined at Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu. 

In its decision to start trial on the two doctors, the court placed a huge weight on Yale University infectious diseases specialist Dr. Ravi Durvasula's testimony. The Garcia family presented him as a medical expert in the case.

Durvasula said the development of catheter-associated bacterem on Garcia's body and his subsequent death is considered a red flag in hospital care.

"Though initial treatment of COVID-19 pneumonia and vascular complications was appropriate and protocol-driven, subsequent care deviated from acceptable standards of medical documentation, laboratory investigations and infection control," Durvasula said.

Hernandez and Montejo denied the allegations that they were negligent and blamed the Garcia family for refusing several medical procedures needed during the critical stage of Marlon's confinement.

"They were not able to immediately administer the planned treatment and procedure at the time when its intervention was crucial," Montejo said.

Hernandez indicated that Garcia suffered from comorbidities such as obesity, hypertension, and obstructive sleep apnea. She also found out that he was also a smoker, who smoked 10 packs a day.

"He has been suffering from fever for four days and had been experiencing shortness of breath since the morning of August 5, 2020, had been doing tuob and have taken capsules of Chinese drug Lianhua Qingwen," Hernandez added.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration approved the use of traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen, but not for COVID-19 treatment. 

Meanwhile, the Philippine College of Physicians Central Visayas Chapter expressed support for the two doctors indicted for the death of Garcia.

"We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and all frontliners. Our enemy is COVID-19," the group posted on its social media page.

CNN Philippines Cebu Correspondent Dale Israel contributed to this story.