The evidence presented against Director of Nursing Services (Matron) of the Georgetown Public
Hospital Corporation (GPHC), Ms. Collene Hicks, during a Committee of Inquiry (COI) was damning enough for even the panel member who represented her Union to vote in favour of her termination.
This disclosure was made by former Chairman of the hospital’s Board of Directors, Dr. Carl ‘Max’ Hanoman. According to Dr. Hanoman, the Committee which was tasked with investigating a plethora of allegations levelled against the Matron, had in fact unanimously voted against her continued service at the public health institution.
The investigation was triggered by a petition signed by some 150 staffers of the hospital who had demanded that Hicks’ services be terminated because of her conduct that was reportedly not consistent with professionalism.
The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) has been representing the interest of Hicks. Moreover, Dr. Hanoman said that even before the Committee was constituted, he had consulted with the Union.
“I gave the Union every opportunity for representation…initially Mr. (Patrick) Yarde (GPSU President) said that he wanted a ‘Mr. Butts’ to represent the union, then he changed his mind and said the union would instead be represented by Mr. (Reginald) Brotherson,” Dr. Hanoman recounted.
But it was only after the Board had agreed on five out of seven possible candidates to make up the Committee that Yarde continued his protest, even insisting that the Board should be constituted of three and not five members, Dr. Hanoman continued.
Even as he insisted that the investigation was above board, he added, “Setting up the Committee was not a one-man show…I didn’t make the decision on my own, the entire Board had to agree before we went ahead.”
Dr. Hanoman’s defence of the process of inquiry follows on the heels of concerns vocalised by the GPSU President. Yarde has called the process “insensitive” and “reckless,” even as he contended that the Board had in fact failed to adhere to standard industrial relations guidelines. The GPSU President said that the Union did not only have issues with the Board’s decision to constitute a three-man panel to investigate the allegations against Hicks, but also because the Committee failed to grant her permission to be accompanied by a union officer.
According to him, “They invited the Matron and we sent an officer to accompany her, but they refused to allow him (the union officer) in the room….never heard of. We said no, no that is totally out of place and we would not have anything to do with that.”
Yarde is also not accepting the fact that Hicks was unable to face her accusers during the course of the investigation, and has asserted that the Union will not dignify the findings or the recommendations of the COI.
“Our position was that the panel was biased and we wrote to them (the Board) about it even before they proceeded after we were told what was going on. We told them (even then) that we would not recognise it unless they correct it (our concerns),” Yarde noted.
Hicks was sent on administrative leave early last year to facilitate the inquiry which commenced in October.
The COI, this publication was told, was tasked with assessing the truthfulness of the allegations or complaints made against the Matron and make a determination as to whether these were injurious or destructive to the effective and efficient delivery of the health care delivered at the GPHC.
The Committee was reportedly guided by a Terms of Reference (TOR), which required that it compiled through interviews with staff of the hospital, including doctors and nurses or through investigations, a list of allegations or complaints of displeasure or misconduct against the Matron.
Added to this, the COI was expected to specifically examine the promotion of nurses under the Matron to determine whether these were based on merit. Further the Committee was tasked with examining the relationship between the Matron and the doctors of the institution to ascertain if this affected the delivery of health care at the hospital.
A report of the inquiry was handed over to former Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, and outlined, among other things, that Hicks’ continued service at the GPHC would not be in the best interest of the public health institution.
Dr. Norton had told this publication that the recommendations will more than likely be implemented. He had however noted that Cabinet will be tasked with deciding on the way forward.
But this publication was reliably informed that moves are afoot to have Hicks reinstated. There are reports that some members of staff who worked closely with Hicks have been encouraging staff members, reportedly under duress, to sign a petition in the quest to make the reinstatement a reality shortly.
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