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The News’ back page report was erroneous


Editor: An example of irresponsible journalism centres around a completely erroneous report carried in THE NEWS newspaper, on its back page issue: May 8, 2015.

The very strongly worded report alleges that a 55-year-old female patient of the Mental Health Centre (MHC) at Orange Hill, was beaten and thrown downstairs.{{more}}

According to a male relative of the patient, she was admitted on Monday, April 27. On Tuesday, next day, another relative visited, “but did not report anything negative.” That is about the only connotation in the article which is correct.

A staff member called the male relative, as yet unidentified, who says he was informed that his relative – the patient, “was behaving badly, and she had to be put in another room,” as reported correctly in THE NEWS. As a patient, I know that is ‘solitary’, one of four isolated cells. Not as many of the female patients have histories of violence and those rooms are almost always empty, compared with the same facility at the male ward. The staff member, having nothing to hide, followed correct protocol in calling the relative and informing him of the patient’s new status.

I interviewed two staff members — one nurse, one female attendant — present at the time of the incident, and they denied that the incident took place. The discussion, which ended with the corroboration of a senior member of staff, is that, as often happens with especially male patients when they act up, the 55-year-old female became combative and had to be restrained, and the situation got out of hand.

As a resident at Orange Hill MHC, I see that sort of thing all the time. Some members of staff have had flesh bitten out of their hands by patients, suffered broken limbs; it is a situation which calls for the introduction of more specialized members of staff and security which this writer has often advocated. I know the two members of staff interviewed and they have never been central pertaining to this kind of incident in the four years I have been associated with MHC and the two and a half I have lived there.

I will admit that due to the overwhelming difference in ratio of staff to patients, that, speculatively, the woman’s bruises should have been dressed and seen to earlier, but as has been stated, the woman was combative. To the credit of the staff, when the male relative returned, the woman was no longer in solitary.

Madam editor, I hope you will permit the editorial nature of a final comment as regards THE NEWS’ approach to reporting. Four or five years ago, the proprietor of a caregiver training school ran into immigration trouble, relating to controversial housing and alleged abuse of human rights of circa 30 Nepalese students. In due course, these students were returned to Nepal. There appeared to be an unsupported imputation that the woman was a human trafficker.

Human traffickers are often wealthy people. In Canada, when I visited said woman, I saw the house, a rambling three-storey affair, that she had to give up in lieu of a much smaller place. She was financially ruined by what I will term irresponsible ‘comess’.

In interacting with some of the Nepalese students, I was assured by them that the proprietor of the school, though disorganized in policy, was definitely no human trafficker. Manzil Sapkota, one of the students, still corresponds with me on Facebook. He has had music of his produced in an Asian film, and is currently touring Australia.

He is definitely not in a slave camp.

Colin King