Region Five councilor accused of using office to access medication at hospital

A complaint was made last year to the Ministry of Health by a Berbice nurse against Region 5 councilor Carol Joseph that she was using her office to obtain unusual amounts of a prescription painkiller from the Fort Wellington Hospital.

The nurse is lamenting that months after her first correspondence and a follow up letter on December 13th 2016, no intervention seems to have been made as Joseph continues to access the system.

“To this date no disciplinary action was done to curb this situation…I am still awaiting intervention on this matter,” nurse Shemilyn Marks penned in her correspondence to then Minister of Health Dr. George Norton. Stabroek News tried contacting Norton yesterday to no avail as calls to his mobile and office numbers went unanswered.

When Joseph was contacted yesterday 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.

Terrence Esseboom, the Public Relations Officer of current Minister of Health Volda Lawrence, informed that he was unaware of the missive and asked for a copy of the document.

The letter, seen by Stabroek News, 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.

The Chief Medical Officer said that he was aware of the letter but could not remember in detail its contents. However, he noted that it was sent to the Medical Council of Guyana for investigation.

Contacted, Head of the Medical Council of Guyana Dr. Navin Rambarran pointed out that his agency would not be responsible for handling a Ministry of Health investigation which deals with usage of power by a councilor to obtain drugs. He said that if such an investigation by the Ministry of Health found a doctor acted improperly then his agency would step in to find out about the violations.

Chairman of Region 5 Ramphal would only say that he too had seen the letter.

“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 ensure that he signed. He collected the drug, administered it and returned the keys,” Marks wrote.

“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 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.

Joseph asked that the Regional Health Officer, Stephen Chefoon be contacted as he “knew everything and could explain everything”.

But when Chefoon was contacted by Stabroek News, he said that he could not remember if the letter was sent through him and if it was it would bear his signature. He stressed that if his signature was not on it then he was not aware of such a letter.

He asked about the contents of the letter and when told he said that no nurse should determine if a patient has too much of a drug since if it is prescribed by a doctor that nurse has to follow her superior’s instructions. “I don’t understand how a nurse can write about drugs being prescribed. A nurse can’t prescribe drugs and if a patient comes with a prescription they have to give that patient.”

Asked if he had prescribed any prescription drug to Joseph, Cheffoon said he sees many patients and cannot recall if Joseph was one.

Nurse Marks says that she is pleading with Public Health Ministry officials to act on her complaints since Joseph continues to use her office to get preferential treatment at the hospital.

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