Daily Observer (Jamaica)


- BY KIM­BER­LEY HIB­BERT Senior staff reporter hi­b­bertk@ja­maicaob­server.com Crime · Society · Bullying · Jamaica Defence Force

Aformer Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) woman sol­dier who was med­i­cally dis­charged from ser­vice in Septem­ber is seek­ing an­swers from the JDF as to its al­leged re­fusal to pay her for the re­main­der of her con­tract pe­riod.

But while she seeks an­swer and, by ex­ten­tion, com­pen­sa­tion, the for­mer sol­dier, 26year-old Chaneque Gar­dener is cry­ing foul re­gard­ing the way she said she was treated when she started de­vel­op­ing med­i­cal is­sues.

“I served in the JDF for two years and nine months and ever since I joined, I’ve been hav­ing is­sues with the med­i­cal doc­tors there and the treat­ment that they pro­vided for my in­juries and ill­nesses. Dur­ing my train­ing I fell and hit my back twice and was di­ag­nosed with de­gen­er­a­tive disc dis­ease and facet joint arthropa­thy. I was also di­ag­nosed with Baker’s cyst and patella femoral syn­drome in both knees,” Gar­dener said in a let­ter sent to the Ja­maica Ob­server.

Gar­dener said that be­cause of the sever­ity of the pain she would visit the med­i­cal cen­tre at Up Park Camp daily and when she got preg­nant around June 2019 things got worse, as the doc­tors be­gan fo­cus­ing on how of­ten she re­ported sick, rather than the sick­ness she was com­plain­ing about.

But, be­fore be­com­ing preg­nant, Gar­dener said she was given med­i­ca­tion in March 2019 and af­ter tak­ing it as pre­scribed, she ended up in the hos­pi­tal and was later ac­cused by the doc­tors for at­tempt­ing sui­cide by over­dos­ing her­self.

Gar­dener said this prompted her to write a let­ter of com­plaint to the Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS), Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Rocky Meade, but each time she tried to get it sent, she faced chal­lenges.

How­ever, Gar­dener’s trou­bles in­ten­si­fied when she saw Gen­eral Meade at a func­tion in De­cem­ber 2019 and shared her is­sues with him.

“I told him the is­sues with send­ing it off and he told me to send it di­rectly to him. Af­ter do­ing so I was charged by my com­mand­ing of­fi­cer for break­ing the chain of com­mand and was ac­cused of ly­ing to the CDS,” she told the Ob­server.

When Gar­dener re­turned from ma­ter­nity leave on June 8, 2020, she said she de­cided to see her com­mand­ing of­fi­cer about the charge and in­quire about an­other charge that was set for her whilst on ma­ter­nity leave and she was sub­se­quently sen­tenced to seven days in the mil­i­tary prison.

“Be­fore be­ing sent to prison one has to see the mil­i­tary doc­tor to en­sure they are fit to be com­mit­ted. I saw the doc­tor and she said they will not sign the com­mit­tal form as I have a three-month-old baby and there’s a pos­si­bil­ity for the milk to be con­tam­i­nated dur­ing trans­port and my breasts can get in­fected. She made a call to my com­mand­ing of­fi­cer and af­ter the call ended she signed the form and said I had to do the time in prison. I ad­vised her that I suf­fer from ma­jor de­pres­sive dis­or­der which would be known by them as I was di­ag­nosed by a mil­i­tary psy­chol­o­gist and it would be hard for me to cope in lock up. I was sent there nev­er­the­less. Whilst there I had to be ex­press­ing milk in an un­san­i­tary cell for it to be trans­ported to my baby,” she said.

Gar­dener’s med­i­cal records, ob­tained by the Ob­server, con­firmed the phys­i­cal in­juries to her back and knees and her men­tal health chal­lenges. The re­port high­lighted that she was neg­a­tively af­fected by the lock up in prison and her per­ceived sub­stan­dard med­i­cal care from JDF.

Fur­ther, af­ter leav­ing the mil­i­tary prison, Gar­dener said her de­pres­sion wors­ened and when she ex­pressed her sit­u­a­tion she was meted out with harsh treat­ment and an even­tual hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion at Belle­vue.

“Af­ter leav­ing mil­i­tary prison my de­pres­sion got worse to the point of hav­ing sui­ci­dal ideation. I told the psy­chi­a­trist how I was feel­ing and he urged me to stop breast­feed­ing so I can start med­i­ca­tion. I went to the med­i­cal cen­tre in Up Park Camp and asked them for the med­i­ca­tion that the psy­chi­a­trist had pre­scribed as I felt I was get­ting worse. In­stead of giv­ing me the med­i­ca­tion, the doc­tor sent me to UHWI to be ad­mit­ted. I saw a psy­chi­a­trist there and she said I don’t need ad­mis­sion, but I need to start tak­ing med­i­ca­tion im­me­di­ately. She gave me the pre­scrip­tion and sent me back to Up Park Camp. I went in and got the med­i­ca­tion and was sit­ting down as the med­i­ca­tion causes a calm­ing ef­fect. I was then ad­vised by the JDF med­i­cal doc­tor that I was be­ing sent to Belle­vue un­til I calmed down. I was so shocked that words were elu­sive and she slammed the door and walked out.

“I was taken to Belle­vue and was told I had to be kept for ob­ser­va­tion based on the rec­om­men­da­tion from the JDF med­i­cal doc­tor. I asked to see the rec­om­men­da­tion but my re­quest was de­nied. I spent seven days at Belle­vue and it was very hard for me there. In­stead of get­ting bet­ter I was get­ting worse as the pa­tients there had more se­vere men­tal ill­nesses than I did. When my un­cle con­tacted the doc­tors at JDF med­i­cal cen­tre, they told him I was sent to Belle­vue be­cause Ward 21 had no bed space, which was a lie. Af­ter re­turn­ing from Belle­vue I spent the week­end at home and was sent right back to work the fol­low­ing week. I fol­lowed up with my psy­chi­a­trist at UHWI and he gave me a sick leave to take back to Camp, which stated that I was un­fit for work. I took it to them and the doc­tor put the sick leave on my file and sent me back to work,” she said.

In or­der to be granted the leave, Gar­dener said she had to do an in­ter­view to get priv­i­leged leave as she was not feel­ing well enough for work.

“I had to go on an in­ter­view to get priv­i­leged leave as I re­ally wasn’t feel­ing well enough for work. I took two weeks off but af­ter see­ing the psy­chi­a­trist again he thought I was still un­fit and gave me an­other sick leave to take back to JDF. The doc­tor did the same thing again; sent me right back to work. Up Park Camp would have been un­der lock down by this time and not be­ing able to see my kids made things worse to the point where I started talk­ing to per­sons and no one was there and I started bang­ing my head on ob­jects. I was taken to the hos­pi­tal and the doc­tors said they refuse to send me back to work in that en­vi­ron­ment so they ad­mit­ted me to Ward 21 at UHWI,” Gar­dener said.

She was dis­charged from the hos­pi­tal on Septem­ber 8, 2020 and was dis­charged from the JDF the fol­low­ing day.

In fact, this was a rec­om­men­da­tion from her med­i­cal re­port, which stated that Gard­ner’s stres­sors are re­lated to her em­ploy­ment and re­la­tion­ship as well as a past his­tory of ad­verse child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences. The re­port rec­om­mended that she con­tinue to take her med­i­ca­tion and en­gage in psy­chother­apy but also out­lined that she was un­fit to par­tic­i­pate in her reg­u­lar du­ties and should be al­lowed leave pend­ing a re­view on Septem­ber 2, 2020.

The re­port also stated that Gar­dener’s mil­i­tary ca­reer was in doubt as given her neg­a­tive view of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and the med­i­cal care pro­vided, her re­la­tion­ship with the JDF would con­tinue to be chal­leng­ing and im­pact neg­a­tively on her men­tal health and oc­cu­pa­tional func­tion­ing

But what was to fol­low has left her seething and seek­ing le­gal re­dress.

“I was told that I will not be paid for the re­main­der of my con­tract, which is four years and three months. I have in­juries that need phys­io­ther­apy and I still have to be on anti-de­pres­sants. I also have a young baby plus an older child to take care of. They have caused me phys­i­cal and emo­tional pain and have left me with noth­ing,” Gar­dener said.

She added: “I am not dis­put­ing the dis­charge be­cause I am sick, but their med­i­cal doc­tors are the main rea­son why my sick­ness got worse and now they refuse to pay me for the re­main­der of my con­tract.”

More­over, Gar­dener who sees her­self as an al­tru­ist, said ini­tially she joined the JDF be­cause she hates in­jus­tice, but now she is the sub­ject of the very thing she de­spises.

“Hav­ing gone through so much in such a short ten­ure is proof that a lot of changes need to be made to that or­gan­i­sa­tion be­cause sol­diers are cry­ing out but no one is lis­ten­ing,” Gar­dener said.

Ques­tions re­gard­ing Gar­dener’s sit­u­a­tion were sent to JDF Mil­i­tary Co­op­er­a­tion Of­fi­cer Ma­jor Basil Jar­rett on Fri­day evening, but up to press time they were not an­swered.

 ??  ?? For­mer JDF sol­dier Chaneque Gar­dener, who was re­cently med­i­cally dis­charged, wants an­swers as to why she is not be­ing paid monies she says is owed to her by the JDF.
For­mer JDF sol­dier Chaneque Gar­dener, who was re­cently med­i­cally dis­charged, wants an­swers as to why she is not be­ing paid monies she says is owed to her by the JDF.

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