TIGI de­cries in­for­ma­tion black­out on probe into trans­fer of whistle­blower nurse

Stabroek News Sunday - - BUSINESS PAGE -

Lo­cal anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog Trans­parency Institute Guyana In­cor­po­rated (TIGI) yes­ter­day cr­ti­cised both the Guyana Nurs­ing Coun­cil and the Guyana Med­i­cal Coun­cil for their un­will­ing­ness to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the cur­rent sta­tus of in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the con­duct of nurse Sher­i­lyn Marks, who was trans­ferred last year after com­plain­ing about the al­leged abuse of of­fice by a Re­gion Five (Ma­haica/Ber­bice) Coun­cil­lor to ac­cess pre­scrip­tion med­i­ca­tion.

Marks was trans­ferred from the Fort Welling­ton Hospi­tal in April last year after her com­plaint against then APNU+AFC coun­cil­lor Carol Joseph was made pub­lic. Joseph sub­se­quently re­signed amidst the pub­li­ca­tion of sev­eral re­ports on the com­plaints.

TIGI, in a state­ment is­sued yes­ter­day, noted that in June of the same year, it added its voice to the many that were raised in op­po­si­tion to the act of trans­fer­ring Marks. The Guyana Pub­lic Ser­vice Union, it said, is on record with TIGI as in­di­cat­ing that it stands with Marks in as­sert­ing that she was not in breach of any rules. The union as­serts that Marks acted pro­fes­sion­ally and also in­di­cated that it held dis­cus­sions with var­i­ous en­ti­ties on her be­half but has been un­able to se­cure a re­ver­sal of the ac­tions taken against her.

Since that time, TIGI noted, the gov­ern­ment tabled a Pro­tected Dis­clo­sure (Whistle­blower Pro­tec­tion) bill, which was passed unan­i­mously in the Na­tional As­sem­bly. “How­ever, laws will not be ef­fec­tive when there is a lack of will to make them work and the fact that Ms. Marks’s sit­u­a­tion has not been rec­ti­fied is omi­nous of the kind of dis­so­nance in the po­lit­i­cal class that can ren­der whistle­blower leg­is­la­tion in­con­se­quen­tial if it does be­come law,” it said.

The group fur­ther noted that there were prom­ises of in­ves­ti­ga­tions to de­ter­mine whether Marks had breached any rules of the pub­lic ser­vice. “The Guyana Nurs­ing Coun­cil, the Guyana Me­dial Coun­cil and the Min­istry of Pub­lic Health, were to con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tions. These in­ves­ti­ga­tions would have un­cov­ered whether Ms. Marks was in breach of the pub­lic ser­vice rules, whether doc­tors were com­plicit and whether the ac­tions against her were in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” it ex­plained.

Hav­ing be­come aware of the prom­ises of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, TIGI said it wrote to both the Guyana Nurs­ing Coun­cil (de­liv­ered on Novem­ber 20, 2017) and the Med­i­cal Coun­cil (ini­tially de­liv­ered on De­cem­ber 21, 2017) to find out about the sta­tus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, in­clud­ing if Marks was found guilty or cleared of breach­ing any rules or codes of ethics.

Ac­cord­ing to the group, the Guyana Nurs­ing Coun­cil re­sponded last De­cem­ber and in­di­cated that it is not in a po­si­tion to pro­vide an up­date. “This re­sponse failed to even in­di­cate whether or not in­ves­ti­ga­tions were ini­ti­ated. We find this to be ap­palling. Even if the coun­cil does not wish to di­vulge de­tails of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, there is noth­ing pre­vent­ing it from in­di­cat­ing whether or not there was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and whether or not it was com­pleted. There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween con­fi­den­tial­ity and se­crecy,” TIGI lamented.

Mean­while, TIGI said that a Jan­uary 10th, 2018 phone call from TIGI to the Guyana Med­i­cal Coun­cil re­vealed that its let­ter was mis­placed. It added that it then sent an elec­tronic copy on Jan­uary 10th and re­ceipt was ac­knowl­edged the fol­low­ing day. “We fol­lowed-up by email on Fe­bru­ary 8, 2018 (no re­sponse) and again on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2018 and a re­sponse was re­ceived on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2018 in­di­cat­ing that the mat­ter was still en­gag­ing the at­ten­tion of the Coun­cil. To date (now May 26, 2018) we have not re­ceived a re­sponse to the con­tent of the let­ter from the Guyana Med­i­cal Coun­cil,” it noted.

As a re­sult, TIGI charged that the fail­ure of both the Guyana Nurs­ing Coun­cil and the Guyana Med­i­cal Coun­cil to take ac­tion in this mat­ter, or, at the very least, to re­spond to its le­git­i­mate ques­tions on be­half of the Guyanese pub­lic, smacked of a cover-up. “Lead­ing health care pro­fes­sion­als should surely be anx­ious to pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate treat­ment for the Coun­cil­lor, and to sup­port Nurse Marks for hav­ing fol­lowed cor­rect pro­ce­dures in an ad­mit­tedly dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. In­deed, we at TIGI be­lieve that Nurse Sher­i­lyn Marks should be given a na­tional award in recog­ni­tion of her courage espe­cially in con­text of the lack of pro­tec­tion for whistle­blow­ers in Guyana,” it added.

Stabroek News had re­ported on Marks’ com­plaint on April 19th of last year. The next day, she was sum­moned by the Re­gion Five 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 had never asked for a trans­fer.

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