Re­lease the find­ings into Eda’s death

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

Dear Edi­tor, On Au­gust 26th, 2015, Kai­eteur News re­ported that Eda, a fe­male pa­tient of the Na­tional Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal, was mur­dered dur­ing a fight with an­other pa­tient. Ac­cord­ing to the ar­ti­cle, the fight oc­curred in a se­cluded room where the de­ceased, the at­tacker, and a third pa­tient were placed be­cause they had all been ex­hibit­ing ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour. It was al­leged that only one nurse was on duty in the ward when this tragedy oc­curred, and it is un­clear whether she was aware of the fight and at­tempted to in­ter­vene.

A few days af­ter this in­ci­dent be­came pub­lic, the then Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health, Dr. Ge­orge Nor­ton, told Stabroek News that “[a]n in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been launched into the in­ci­dent so that we can tell the na­tion ex­actly what hap­pened,” (Probe Un­der­way Into Death of Pa­tient at Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal, Septem­ber 2nd, 2015).

Al­most three years later, the na­tion still awaits the find­ings of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion promised by the Min­istry of Pub­lic Health - if it was ever con­ducted in the first place.

It is also un­clear whether the Guyana Po­lice Force was ap­pro­pri­ately in­formed of this in­ci­dent and al­lowed to con­duct a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In fact, Kai­eteur News re­ported on Au­gust 27, 2015 that the hos­pi­tal failed to re­port the mur­der to the po­lice, who learned of the in­ci­dent af­ter read­ing about it in the news­pa­pers.

Dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing pe­riod, Stabroek News, in an editorial en­ti­tled “Ac­count­abil­ity to Pa­tients in the Pub­lic Health Sys­tem,” (Septem­ber 28, 2015) called for the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health to re­lease the find­ings into Eda’s death, “[a]s a means of un­der­stand­ing the depths to which men­tal care in this coun­try has sunk.” That call was ig­nored. I also per­son­ally at­tempted on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions to ob­tain up­dates from Dr. Nor­ton’s of­fice, and other of­fi­cials about “the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” All my at­tempts were fu­tile.

I sus­pected then, and am con­vinced now, that our silence about the cri­sis in the men­tal health sys­tem has cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment where lead­ers feel to­tally un­ac­count­able to any­one, and the na­tion as a whole, for even the most egre­gious hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions of in­di­vid­u­als with var­i­ous forms of men­tal ill­nesses.

The re­sponse of the Min­istry of Pub­lic Health to Eda’s death is trou­bling be­cause it high­lights the low value placed on hu­man lives in Guyana. This is not the first mur­der that oc­curred at the in­sti­tu­tion, and it is un­clear whether ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures have since been taken to min­i­mize the risk of harm to pa­tients in the care of the state.

More than ever, it is crit­i­cal that our outdated men­tal health leg­is­la­tion is up­dated to end the lack of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity that ex­ists in our men­tal health sys­tem, and to pro­vide ad­e­quate pro­tec­tion to our broth­ers and sis­ters ac­cess­ing ser­vices.

It is also past time for the find­ings into Eda’s death to be made pub­lic to en­sure that oth­ers do not suf­fer a sim­i­lar fate. As a re­sult, I call on the cur­rent Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Health, Volda Lawrence, to do the right thing and pro­vide a com­plete up­date to the na­tion on this in­ci­dent.

Yours faith­fully, An­thony Au­tar

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