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PSU statements on Mental Health Centre are laced with ‘mountain of falsehoods…’ PM

PSU statements on Mental Health Centre are laced with ‘mountain of falsehoods…’ PM
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

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The Public Service Union’s statements about the management of the COVID-19 outbreak at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre have been dismissed by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who said they were “laced with falsehoods and misinterpretation and a heavy dose of political mischief”.

The Union held a press conference last Wednesday, during which they addressed several aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

Reports from health officials on February 28 were that 21 patients and two staff members had tested positive.

To date, 104 positive cases are a part of the MHRC cluster, which consists of 94 patients, nine staff members and one contact of a positive case.

“There is a concerted attack which has been made by certain persons connected with the Public Service Union on the staff leadership on the Mental Health Centre,” Gonsalves said on the Shake Up radio programme last Friday, as he commented on the issue in the hope of debunking “this mountain of falsehoods and misrepresentations”.

The COVID-19 positive patients at the mental health facility were transferred to the Grace and Truth Campsite at Queen’s Drive for isolation.

Joel Poyer, the PSU’s industrial relations officer said last week that reports coming out of that location were that the facility is not adequate to house the number of patients there.

He claimed that there were two patients on each bed while others were sleeping on the floor.

It was also said at Wednesday’s press conference that there were few nurses assigned to the facility and that the staff was being made to work 12-hour shifts.

The prime minister emphatically objected to these claims on Friday, responding to each of these claims made by the Union.

He said staff at Queen’s Drive have been working three shifts – 7am to 1pm; 1pm to 7pm; and 7pm to 7am.

“That’s three shifts, rather than two shifts in the day period. They have 27 staff, there are five to seven on each shift and less of course, on the night shift,” he said.

Gonsalves also noted that no two persons were sleeping in the same bed as there is lots of space at the campsite.

Based on reports sent to him, the prime minister explained that there was an instance where three persons had arrived at the facility later than the others and that three mattresses were put on the upstairs platform for persons who came later.

He also said that during the course of the night, two patients decided to leave their bed and go on the floor “which is an entirely different story that patients had to sleep on the floor”.

The prime minister said there were 78 males and 25 females at the camp site.

Gonsalves further explained that there should have been 79 males, but that one man had run away from the facility. Up to Friday, authorities were looking for that person.

He added however, that the campsite being used as an isolation centre for the MHRC COVID-19 patients was fenced and being guarded by Guardsman.

About 104 males and 30 females remain at the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre in Glen.

These persons tested negative for the virus.

The Prime Minister said on radio that the majority of the remaining patients have been vaccinated against COVID-19. He explained that two males were not vaccinated because they are younger and said they did not want to take the jab.

Gonsalves added that four new females are at the facility and had not been vaccinated as yet because authorities could not contact family members for consent.

“The senior staff are pulling their weight very well and they themselves are doing longer hours,” he said.

He expressed his disappointment “that these kinds of falsehoods could be purveyed at times like these”.

“…And to make families who have their loved ones in the care of the state, be in a state of heightened anxiety, more than usual for what reason?” he questioned.

The prime minister praised local health authorities for the swiftness in which they responded to the situation by transferring positive cases to a new location and making the necessary arrangements to ensure that everything was in place.

And he concurred, as told by officials, that “there is no basis for these outlandish statements” made by the Public Service Union.