“You know, I was really so disappointed to hear the falsehoods, mingled with really lots of mischief, in my view, by the Public Service Union about what was happening at the Mental Health Centre, where they were moved over to the camp site in Queen’s Drive.”
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves made the comment on WE FM radio last Sunday, days after the Public Service Union (PSU) held a press conference and spoke of conditions in which nurses and other staff members at the Mental Health Centre and the Glad Tidings campsite were reported to be working.
“I mean the things which were said by persons there were just not true; several of the things.
The more outlandish accusations just simply not true, like they only do two shifts when they do three shifts: 7 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon; 1 in the afternoon to 7 p.m.; and then 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. There are three shifts where they have shifts, over 27 staff members. Some five to seven shifts depending on the number”, you know, you will have the fewer number in the night,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said.
Interestingly, what the Prime Minister said about the shift periods were exactly what the Union said at the press conference.
During the press conference last week Wednesday, the Public Service Union’s public relations officer Shelly-Ann Alexander-Ross said there were three shifts: from 7 a.m to 1 p.m; 1 p.m to 7 p.m and 7 p.m to 7 a.m.
In response to a question, she said that under normal situation there are three shifts and the day shifts usually have two staff nurses, three assistants and a nursing aide.
Prime Minister Gonsalves also accused the union of stating falsehoods in relation to beds and some patients sleeping on the floor.
“The idea that there were no beds for the people to sleep on so they had to sleep on the floor, it’s not true. It’s just a falsehood and that people were sleeping on the ground – patients.”
“If you know the camp site – those of you who have been there – you have a lot of space upstairs and you have downstairs and you have open areas and you have rooms, particular partitions in which you can put particular people.
“They have in two of the large areas upstairs, the rooms, they have the females in there and they have the males in the wider halls, so to speak, upstairs.”
“And you have rooms for about 70/80 people downstairs,” the Prime Minister said.
He said there were 78 males and 25 females at the campsite.
He said there were three patients who came in and because the staff wanted to keep everybody upstairs as far as it is practicable, because it was easier to manage, even though there are bath rooms downstairs which they would go to, they had three mattresses put on the wooden platform so that persons would sleep.
“Nobody slept on the ground. It wasn’t a question that there was nowhere for anybody to sleep.
“During one of the nights, two of the male patients went and slept on the ground. It is not unusual in mental hospitals, mental facilities, including our own, that patients would leave their bed and go and lie on the ground.
And two of them did so. It’s a different story to say that there were no beds for them to sleep on,” Dr Gonsalves said.
“What happen is this; there are some who get information from persons, not necessarily staff nurses, but from persons who are even, who are not at that professional level, who have their own personal and even political grouses and who fill some of these persons’ heads at the union with stories which are just not true.
“And they just buy them hook, line and sinker, and in those circumstances, spread these falsehoods. As I say, pinched with much mischief and they talk about they didn’t have enough masks and gowns.”
“I have a document in my hand here dated, from the 27th of February signed by Dr Elizabeth Medford the Senior Nursing Officer out there, who happens at the moment to be chairman of the General Nursing Council. And she has a two-page report to her seniors about the number of staff and security coverage – security from Guardsman.
“They got 11 mattresses which were taken there because they wanted some mattresses which were covered because some of the mattresses apparently were uncovered. And they got those,” he further stated.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that on the listed of items were 3,000 masks provided by permanent secretary Cutberth Knights, 60 gowns, 30 N95 masks, 200 surgical masks, three boxes of medium unsterilized gloves, so many hand sanitizers, spray bottles, face shields, infrared thermometers.
“Those were supplies provided by Donna Bascombe,” he said.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that the document outlined food arrangements and how the staff would be picked up and transported to the campsite.