Whistle­blower nurse still un­der pun­ish­ment seven months on

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

While the gov­ern­ment tabled a whistle­blow­ers pro­tec­tion bill two weeks ago, nearly seven months have elapsed since nurse Sher­lyn Marks was pun­ished for hav­ing com­plained about the al­leged abuse of of­fice by a Re­gion Five (Ma­haica/Ber­bice) Coun­cil­lor and she is still to be given re­dress.

Wed­nes­day will mark a year since Marks first com­plained about the al­leged abuse of of­fice by re­gional coun­cil­lor Carol Joseph with­out get­ting any sat­is­fac­tion. On April 19 this year, Marks was im­me­di­ately trans­ferred from the Fort Wellington Hos­pi­tal when her com­plaint against Joseph be­came pub­lic. Joseph re­signed amidst the pub­li­ca­tion of sev­eral re­ports on the com­plaints.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Basil Wil­liams has promised all whistle­blow­ers pro­tec­tion, say­ing that even gov­ern­ment min­is­ters would not be shielded un­der the soon-to-be-de­bated Pro­tected Dis­clo­sures Bill 2017.

Marks re­mains in the trans­ferred po­si­tion and has heard noth­ing fur­ther from the au­thor­i­ties.

It has caused rel­a­tives close to her to question the sin­cer­ity of the pro­posed whistle­blow­ers bill as they fear that if the com­mon man com­plains against a min­is­ter of gov­ern­ment, he or she could see the same fate as Marks.

“We read that the AG say­ing that ev­ery­one will get pro­tec­tion even if they talk against any min­is­ter or big one. The bill ain’t in yet but look at what hap­pened here. All now noth­ing never come out of that and look what hap­pened to her…that was just a coun­cil­lor, so much less if is a real big one. You think any­one will re­ally want to say anything?” one rel­a­tive ques­tioned last week.

“If it wasn’t for your news­pa­per, who knows, she would have been fired, hush-hush, and noth­ing else ever come out of the story…but she is com­fort­able where she is and isn’t mind­ful of go­ing back to the hos­pi­tal. It was a bless­ing in dis­guise nah,” the rel­a­tive added.

Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party/Civic Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Harry Gill told this news­pa­per that they have not heard an­other word on the mat­ter apart from the sep­a­rate is­sue of the doc­tors and the med­i­cal coun­cil.

“They were try­ing to dis­miss her, we un­der­stand, but noth­ing came out of that and she still works where she was trans­ferred to. I plan to write the At­tor­ney Gen­eral to ask him my­self what about Nurse Marks who thought she was do­ing a good and got trans­ferred and threats of dis­missal,” Gill said.

Gill added that he too be­lieves that this news­pa­per’s fol­low ups on the mat­ter is the rea­son that Marks was not ter­mi­nated or trans­ferred to an out­ly­ing re­gion.

It was Gill who had writ­ten to the Med­i­cal Coun­cil of Guyana (MCG) for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be launched into the ac­tions of the three doc­tors who al­legedly is­sued the opi­oid pre­scrip­tions to Joseph. The MCG has com­pleted its in­ves­ti­ga­tions and has found merit in the com­plaint. A fur­ther probe is to be done.

Novem­ber 15th will mark one year since Marks first made known her com­plaints about a pos­si­ble abuse of power by Joseph. She had then fol­lowed it up on De­cem­ber 13th of last year, when she had writ­ten to then Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Heath Ge­orge Nor­ton and copied same to lead­ing health, re­gional and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Stabroek News re­ported on her griev­ance on April 19th of this year and the fact that noth­ing had been done by the au­thor­i­ties. The next day, April 20th 2017, Marks said she was sum­moned by the Re­gional Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Ovid Mor­ri­son, who she said com­plained about her go­ing to the press and how her let­ter of com­plaint had not been sent to him. She later that day re­ceived her let­ter of trans­fer.

“Ap­proval is hereby given for you to be trans­ferred from Fort Wellington Hos­pi­tal to the Bath/Ex­per­i­ment Health Cen­tre with ef­fect from 20th April 2017…,” the let­ter to Marks stated. She said that she never asked for a trans­fer.

Her com­plaint would con­sti­tute the act of whistle­blow­ing and this gov­ern­ment has long stated its sup­port for such leg­is­la­tion.

Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ties Ron­ald Bulkan had told this news­pa­per that he would in­ter­vene if he es­tab­lishes that Marks was trans­ferred be­cause she had blown the whis­tle.

He said that his gov­ern­ment does not want to be ever seen as tar­get­ing whistle­blow­ers and con­don­ing acts of re­tal­i­a­tion against those who were brave enough to speak on out is­sues of cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially when it pro­motes whistle­blow­ing as part of its trans­parency mech­a­nism.

“I would prob­a­bly seek a more in-depth ex­pla­na­tion be­cause at face value it [the trans­fer] seems that the co­in­ci­dence was a lit­tle ex­tra­or­di­nary,” Bulkan said in May of this year.

“We can­not dis­cour­age whistle­blow­ers; we have to pro­mote per­sons out there who are pre­pared and who have the courage to ex­pose cor­rup­tion wher­ever it may be tak­ing place. We can­not sweep things un­der the car­pet. Should we do so, and we are re­minded by our leader that were we to adopt that ap­proach, by 2020 the car­pet would be thick and we do not want that,” he added.

There has been no fur­ther word from Bulkan on this mat­ter.

Af­ter the tabling of the whistle­blower bill, Wil­liams last week as­sured that all whistle­blow­ers will be pro­tected and that no gov­ern­ment min­is­ters would be shielded if guilty

of cor­rup­tion.

“As min­is­ter, let me say up­front that there is no pro­tec­tion for any­one in our gov­ern­ment and un­der our watch who is in­volved in any cor­rupt act. No one is above the law. So, you could rest as­sured that with Pres­i­dent David Arthur Granger, you don’t have any ex­cuse. If you are found pur­loin­ing state as­sets, the law will take its course,” he told an Anti-Cor­rup­tion sem­i­nar, or­gan­ised by his min­istry for coun­cil­lors and em­ploy­ees in Re­gion Four, last week.

To date, Marks’ rel­a­tives say no one has met with her from any of gov­ern­ment’s agen­cies she had writ­ten to over a year ago and she does not be­lieve they will. “I guess we will have to wait to test this whistle­blow­ers law, but trust me, peo­ple know this is Guyana and more hap­pens to the per­son that talks about a wrong than the per­son who do the wrong,” Marks’ rel­a­tive said.

Carol Joseph

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