Students awaiting refunds after nursing school loses council recognition

Just one week after a nursing school scam in which hundreds of unsuspecting young people were defrauded of various amounts of money was made public, students of a similar organization, which has since been closed have come forward to reveal that they are awaiting refunds.

In this case, the legitimate nursing school owned by an overseas-based doctor lost the recognition of the Nursing Council after it failed to meet the required standards and students’ refunds amount to millions of dollars.

When the first batch of students numbering at least 15 began classes at the Universal Emergency Care, School of Nursing located in the Mercy Hospital Compound in 2005, all seemed well.

However, two years into the three-year course, they became suspicious and after demanding answers were told that the school was no longer recognised by the Nursing Council.
Prior to this some of the nursing students had dropped out, but those who remained stopped attending classes in early 2007 after this revelation was made. To date they are yet to get back money they had paid for the course which amounted to over $500,000 in each case.

A second batch had been enrolled in 2006 and those students are in the same position as the first.
Contacted for a comment on Wednesday, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy told Stabroek News that this situation was a different one, as the Universal Emergency Care, School of Nursing had been a recognised one. This school is or was in no way attached to the St Joseph Mercy Hospital; classes were just being held in a room there six times a week.

He explained that an overseas-based Guyanese doctor had approached health officials about the school some time back and was engaged in talks with the Nursing Council.

Ramsammy said that initially the doctor had some agreement with council and the ministry, through the council, began monitoring the school.
He stated that at some point the doctor was asked to meet some additional standards related to the tutors and the qualification of the students among other things.
According to the minister, the doctor made efforts and was working along with health officials to enhance the quality of the school.

“The school was given recognition but we withdrew that recognition because we were not satisfied that the school was meeting the standards we have,” Ramsammy said.
He said that after this, arrangements were being made for the students to write the ministry’s examination and pointed out that after the recognition was withdrawn, the doctor made “some other arrangements” for the students.

Ramsammy said he was uncertain if the school was still open and pointed out that the allegations now being made will be investigated by his ministry.
When Stabroek News attempted to make contact with a representative of the school, this newspaper was told that it did not exist and that the only teaching facility at the hospital was the St Joseph Mercy Hospital Nursing School.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Helen Browman said she did not have all the details as she only commenced duties as of December 1 last.
She said the information she received was that the doctor used a classroom after hours and the students were allowed to use the hospital’s library facilities. The hospital has its own nursing school.

Browman added that this was the practice before she arrived. The doctor may have ended his classes about one year ago. The hospital head stressed that arrangements were made between the former CEO, Sister Sheila Ward who has returned to the United States, and the doctor.

Going public
One of the affected students, Sandra Nicholson told this newspaper on Thursday that the doctor (name given) had collected $775,000 from her and was now refusing to return it. This sum, she said, does not include uniform, text books or transportation costs. Other students are also in a similar position.
“At first he said no problem but when I contacted him again to get the money he said he can’t give me back because he used it up already”.
The young woman while stressing that she was looking forward to graduating and becoming a professional said that she is now frustrated and does not know where to turn, so she decided to go public.

She along with other students had retained a lawyer who sent a letter to the doctor on March 28 last on their behalf; he is yet to respond.
Recounting the ordeal, Nicholson told Stabroek News that in 2005 her relatives from aboard sent her a clipping, advertising the school; she had not seen any advertisements here.
The frustrated woman said she decided to join the school. The course was a three-year one costing $1.8M. They were required to pay $600,000 a year or $50,000 a month.

She said initially they were told that they had to write an entrance examination and once they passed they would be accepted.
In 2005, she said at least 15 students started with her and the following year another batch was enrolled. They had between three to five teachers teaching the various aspects of the course.

In January 2007, Nicholson said, they were told that they needed to have    four CXC subjects as a        requirement to be on the course and if they did not have that they needed to sit those exams.

She said that they complied with this new requirement but started asking questions as they were not informed of this when they enrolled.
Nicholson said it was shortly after this that the administrator informed them that school’s recognition was withdrawn because it did not meet the requirements.
She said that in March she officially stopped attending classes after the doctor began insisting that they resume payment.
The woman said that all she and her follow students want is their money back even if they only receive a part of it.

“I intend to go as far as I can go. I am appealing to the Ministry of Health to intervene because I need my money back,” she stressed.
Nicholson pointed out that in the time she was at the school, they did attachments at the Georgetown Hospital and spent a lot of money on things needed for the course.
She said that all their time and money has been wasted because of the school failed to live up to its promises.

Bogus nursing school
Meanwhile, owner of the bogus nursing school, Nalini Budhram stopped giving out refunds over the last few days after students began objects over the amount they were receiving.

One of the affected students told Stabroek News on Wednesday that Budhram was now saying that she would only repay half of what she was paid.
She said that one of the student received $19, 000 out of $38,000.

The student said that she went to the Duncan Street residence where the refunds were being done by Budhram’s mother but she had to leave empty handed.
Last Tuesday, police arrested the woman who goes by several other aliases after students exposed the alleged fraud operated under cover of the Inter-American Nursing School to Ramsammy.

Budhram was released on $100,000 station bail two days later after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) instructed the police to conduct further investigations.

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