The nurse, whose complaint against an influential APNU+AFC councillor in Region Five was reported in yesterday’s edition of Stabroek News, has been transferred with immediate effect and she firmly believes that she is being targeted over the matter.
Nurse Sherlyn Marks had lodged complaints twice last year against Region Five Councillor Carol Joseph over the latter’s frequent access to a pain killing medication at the Fort Wellington Hospital. Marks had copied her complaint to leading health, regional and government officials but no action had been taken. In yesterday’s edition, Stabroek News reported on her grievance and the fact that nothing had been done by the authorities. Marks said yesterday afternoon she was summoned by the 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 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 sent from the Office of the Regional Democratic Council of Region 5 (Mahaica/Berbice) and addressed to Marks reads.
A copy of the letter seen by Stabroek News, states that the reason for the transfer was “in an effort to establish good vaccination coverage within this catchment area.”
Marks said that she never asked for a transfer. Marks’ complaint would constitute the act of whistle-blowing and this government has long stated its support for such legislation but is still to present it to Parliament nearly two years on. Such legislation would protect whistle blowers. Marks’ sudden and immediate transfer yesterday could be seen as action by the authorities to target a whistle blower.
Yesterday this newspaper reported that months after her first correspondence and a follow up letter on December 13th 2016, Marks was concerned that no intervention seems to have been made as Joseph continues to access the system.
She had written the Ministry of Health charging that not only was Joseph using her office to gain preferential treatment in accessing prescription painkillers, but that she (Marks) was concerned she could be held liable if the drugs were given out improperly according to the Dangerous Drug Act.
When Joseph was contacted on Tuesday by Stabroek News, she dismissed the claims stating that it was not true and someone seemed to be targeting her. “What? On my God! This is not true. My dear I wonder who is after me again. I want to know who is saying those things about Carol because when it is published I will sue them,” Joseph stated.
Marks’ letter was sent through the Regional Health Officer of the Fort Wellington Compound and the Acting Ward Sister of the said hospital. It was also copied to Dr. Kay Shako, Director of Regional Health Services; Dr. Shamdeo Persaud, Chief Medical Officer; Taramattie Barker, Chief Nursing Officer and a Matron Lyken (Only name used) who is the Acting Ward Sister. Region 5 Chairman Vickchand Ramphal and former Permanent Secretary Trevor Thomas were also sent copies of the letter.
It was addressed to then Minister of Health Dr George Norton but he has since been reshuffled to the Ministry of Social Cohesion with his successor being Volda Lawrence. This newspaper reached out to Lawrence’s office but her Public Relations Officer Terence Esseboom said that she was out of the country on travel duty and as far as he was aware, does not know of the letter. He asked for a copy and yesterday Stabroek News provided him with same. He said that Lawrence would return to Guyana sometime next week and would address the issue.
Marks in her letter said “On Saturday evening, 3rd December 2016, I worked. The councilor (Joseph) came to the hospital, when she saw that I was working she said, `Let me call the RHO before I have to sin here tonight’…The Regional Health Officer came and rudely asked me to ‘pull-up’ the injection. I refused. Raising his voice he demanded me to hand the keys over to my junior staff (midwife). I also refused. He then demanded that the keys be handed over to him. I handed it over and ensured that he signed. He collected the drug, administered it and returned the key. So whenever I am working evening shift, the RHO calls the hospital to find out who is working. Once he hears that I am he either asks the sister to wait back to administer it or the councilor would come on a different shift,” she added.
She told Stabroek News on Tuesday that she was afraid that she would be targeted for speaking out but it was a risk she was willing to take because she was concerned that contrary to the laws of Guyana, as it speaks to the Dangerous Drug Act, she could be held liable if the drugs were given out improperly.
Expressing shock at her abrupt transfer, Marks yesterday said that her fears had become a reality since she believes it is because of the story that she was suddenly transferred.
“I knew that speaking out in Guyana would have had some form of victimization attached so I was kind of prepared, but thinking that today I would have been transferred? No I did not expect this at all so soon,” she lamented.
“It is unbelievable that everything is turned into politics here and the main issue that I wanted to highlight; the abuse of an official of a public office … just seemed to disappear and I am seen as the nurse who said something bad about a public official,” she added.
Recalling the events leading up to her receiving the letter of dismissal, Marks related that she showed up for work yesterday morning as scheduled. She said that all was well until persons began whispering that her story had appeared in yesterday’s papers.
Then, at around 3pm she received a call that she was being summoned to the office of the Regional Executive Officer, Ovid Morrison. “When I got there he showed me the newspapers and read out all of the persons who the letter was copied to. He said he was upset that I sent the letter to the Chairman of the Region and left him out and asked why. I told him that it was not on purpose but after realizing that he was left out, and I had already sent off the original letter, I brought a copy to give to him. He was not there so I left it with his secretary and felt that I had covered everyone and that someone would take up the matter at a higher level,” Marks pointed out.
“He started talking that I went to the media and I had no right to and that he could not believe that he was left out. I tried explaining the circumstances to him but he told me that was it and I could go. I came back to work and shortly after, a nurse came looking for another sister and when I told her she wasn’t here asked who I was. When I told her she said, ‘Oh well it is you I want really because the letter is for you…I went upstairs with her and she handed me the letter told me to sign and I did and collected it. I had to read a few times because I was stunned that a letter of transfer had come to me,” she added.
She made clear that she had not asked for a transfer and could not see why the RDC office would choose to move her when she has no problems at her current place of work.
Adding that her initial reaction was to not report for duty today and instead visit the Ministry of Public Health head office in the capital to ascertain what really happened, she said that she decided on a different move. After some thought and talks with her mother, she had decided that she will report for duty lest she be further penalized “possibly sent home for absence” but will also later visit Georgetown to have an audience with officials to find out what is her ultimate fate.
Stressing that she does not want to be a used as a political tool in this matter, since People’s Progressive Party/Civic MP Harry Gill has taken up the matter and subsequently wrote to the local newspapers, Marks again is calling on the Ministry of Public Health to investigate.
“This is a serious matter but all that seems to be coming out is the politics…I am pleading with the Ministry of Health to please investigate. If the political parties want to use my story to go after each other, then that is their choice, but all I want is for this serious issue to be highlighted and a solution for the problem found,” the nurse said.