Torture of teen:GPHC awaits word from medical council on police surgeon

The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is awaiting word from the Medical Council of Guyana before taking any action against Police Surgeon Dr Mahendra Chand, who was recently censured for professional misconduct in the treatment of a teen boy who was tortured in police custody last year.

Director of Medical & Professional Services at the GPHC Dr Madan Rambarran yesterday made this disclosure, when asked whether the institution will take any actions against the doctor, since it is his employer. Chand has been seconded to the Guyana Police Force. When asked whether Chand, who has been under severe criticisms for treating a teenager while there was a bag over his face, may be removed as the Police Surgeon, Dr Rambarran told Stabroek News that this would not happen.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy announced that he had approved the Council’s recommendation that Chand be censured, calling it “a serious action taken against the doctor.” Noting that Chand was seconded to the police by the GPHC, Ramsammy also said the institution “might want to consider any other action it might deem necessary.”

Meanwhile, the main opposition PNCR said yesterday that the Health Minister’s decision to approve the censure of Chand is “a slap on the wrist” for a serious misdemeanour. At a news conference at Congress Place yesterday, PNCR Vice Chairman Basil Williams said that the punishment was inadequate and “wholly unacceptable” and he noted that it sends the wrong message.

Williams said that the issue of torture by police ranks is a serious one which has been highlighted by several victims in the past. He said that while the police continue to deny it, a doctor [Dr Chand] had confirmed this practice by admitting to having treated a patient with a bag over his head.

The teen involved was taken into custody in connection with a murder investigation and was reportedly stripped and beaten before being burnt in his genital area at the Leonora Police Station. He was subsequently seen by Chand, although he had a bag over his head. An investigation by the police force’s Office of Professional Responsibility found that the torture of the teen was known by several police ranks, who were indifferent and complicit.

The Council had earlier recommended that the doctor be suspended for two months, but subsequently rescinded that decision and recommended that he be censured. The new decision was made after the minister returned the report originally sent to him by the Council, asking them further questions.

Ramsammy had disclosed that he sent back the initial recommendation made by the council and requested more information. He noted that the doctor was placed in a position where he was “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.”

The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has dubbed the “censuring” of the doctor as a “slap on the wrist” and accused Ramsammy of depriving the Council of the capacity to enforce professional standards. “By securing ‘censure’–the lightest possible action–in place of its original recommendation of a two-month suspension, the minister has effectively deprived the [council] of the capacity to enforce professional standards,” the GHRA said in a statement on Wednesday. The association said throughout the case the minister has shown “scant regard for public indignation, professional standards or the victim,” while making himself the central figure in the matter instead of sticking to his peripheral statutory role.

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