Government is not liable and therefore cannot be forced to pay any compensation to injured former Queen Elizabeth Hospital nurse Coral Wilkinson.
However, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite reminded today the Solicitor General’s Office was prepared to make an “ex gratia payment” to Wilkinson, who fell down a flight of stairs in the antenatal clinic in April 1981 and sustained a slipped disc in her neck and damage to the bone in the lower back which supports her body weight.
It’s the latest in the near 35-year long battle between Government and the ailing former medical professional.
Brathwaite spoke briefing to Barbados TODAY on the matter during the luncheon break of today’s sitting of Parliament after Wilkinson’s failed attempt last week to get an audience there with either the AG or Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, complaining that her case was simply dragging on for way too long and she had now reached the end of her tether.
However, the Attorney General, who is named in a lawsuit which Wilkinson filed against the State a year after her injury, reiterated that even though Government did not accept liability, the former nurse was still offered a sum of money so she could go to England and have the required surgery.
When the matter was first raised with him last December, Brathwaite had also noted that Wilkinson, through her attorney Sir Richard Cheltenham, QC, had rejected the offer.
“I see the pain she is going through. I spoke to the attorney and asked him to take a second look at it [the matter of payment] and see how quickly he can get rid of it,” the Attorney General said then.
It was back in February, 2015 that Crown Counsel Roger Barker, the Government lawyer handling Wilkinson’s case, had written on behalf of Solicitor General Jennifer Edwards offering the injured nurse an ex gratia payment of $145,159.70 for the surgery in the United Kingdom.
However, Wilkinson’s attorney replied in correspondence dated March 12, 2015 rejecting it on the grounds that the sum offered was insufficient; therefore to accept it was “virtually to condemn her to remaining in her presently helpless condition”.
Sir Richard’s counter-offer was $400,000, which he contended would cover air travel to and from the UK, accommodation, the expenses of the surgical team, physiotherapy and all other incidentals.
He argued that Government’s offer did not even cover the cost of the medical team in England whose maximum fee was 33,000 pounds sterling at the time.
Sir Richard had also asked Government to reconsider its offer, but in a comment on the matter last week the Prime Minister accused the prominent attorney of playing games and of not wanting to see an end to the case.
Stuart, who confirmed he had listened to the former nurse’s plight as recently as three weeks earlier when she called him at home, said he had first heard of her in 2008 when he served as Attorney General.
However, the Prime Minister insisted Wilkinson’s lawyer should get a judge to settle the matter.
“If they are not so happy with the judge’s settlement, appeal it. If they are not happy with what the Court of Appeal says, carry it to the Caribbean Court of Justice. That is how we do business in Barbados.
“This whole business of not doing anything, or not doing enough, and having her out there believing that somebody has wronged her, or somebody is delinquent in not responding to her [is unfortunate],” Stuart said.
Sir Richard, who is currently off island, is yet to respond to the Prime Minister and the AG’s latest pronouncements on the matter.
In the meantime, Wilkinson’s physical health continues to deteriorate. The St Thomas resident said in addition to her mental anguish, in recent months headaches had become a normal part of her existence, while her entire left side was smaller and her right side was getting weaker as she awaited surgery.