A suspended employee at the Psychiatric Hospital is claiming “unfair treatment” as well as “wrongful” detention by authorities at the mental health institution last month.
Nursing Assistant Curtis Grimes, who has been working at the Black Rock hospital for the past 11 years, has retained attorney-at-law David Comissiong as his legal counsel and is now threatening to sue the institution for subjecting him to “seven days of hell”.
“I want somebody to pay for all the hell that I went through . . . .Coming out of this situation I would like to get myself in a better economic position. I think my pain was worth about $10 million because of all that has happened,” said Grimes, who is also challenging his indefinite suspension from work.
In a memo dated June 14, the hospital’s authorities accused him of “misconduct of a serious nature”. The memo explained that the 36-year-old nursing assistant had been absent from duty without leave or approval; had threatened a fellow officer; had failed to perform the duties assigned him and was negligent in the performance of duty.
Grimes was also accused of engaging in disorderly conduct in contravention of the public sector Code of Discipline.
“Owing to the nature of the allegations, it is my opinion that the public’s interest is best served by you ceasing to function in your position,” the memo signed by acting Hospital Director David Leacock and copied to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and the Chief Personnel Officer states.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY this morning, Leacock refused to comment publicly on either Grimes’ detention or his suspension saying, that “if Mr Grimes himself in anyway chose to share the information with you, that is his right as a citizen, but we in turn can’t divulge any information”.
However, Barbados TODAY has been reliably informed that Grimes’ behaviour is now well documented at the mental health institution where there have been several reports of violent and aggressive behaviour towards staff and management. Sources with intimate knowledge of the situation also disclosed that one recent violent incident, which took place at the hospital, was the source of litigation and that the injured officer, who is now forced to use a cane periodically, has since opted for study leave.
However, Grimes’ attorney still believes the Government-run institution has a case to answer.
“He gave me certain instructions and I am going to write to the Psychiatric Hospital in relation to the instructions that he gave me, I don’t know where the matter will go after that,” Comissiong told Barbados TODAY.
Grimes’ situation is also of concern to the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which in a letter dated June 6, had formally requested a meeting with the hospital’s authorities on his behalf to discuss a number of concerns. These include the manner in which officers are placed on leave, unfair restrictions on the use of the nurses’ lounge, lack of training for staff, the inconsistency in rostering for night duty, failure to issue uniforms, physical working conditions and claims of unfair treatment and discrimination.
“The NUPW looks forward to your urgent compliance in having the aforementioned matters amicably resolved,” the letter addressed to the hospital director and signed by NUPW Assistant General Secretary Wayne Walrond said.
In the meantime, Grimes has admitted to being involved in an altercation with the mother of his child on June 14 – the same day he was suspended from work. The woman reported the matter to police and Grimes was subsequently sent to the Psychiatric Hospital for an evaluation.
While not going into full details on the incident, Grimes said he was upset about the clothes the toddler was wearing and the fact that her mother had handed her over to him without any shoes.
And though admitting that the situation subsequently got out of control, Grimes said he did not behave in an aggressive manner to either the police or the mental health officials.
He said he was therefore surprised to be thrown into “an eight by 11 cell” in the maximum-security ward at his very place of work.
To matters worse, he said all of this was done without so much as a medical assessment by a mental health officer, which he deemed to be contrary to the hospital’s own procedures.
Grimes also complained that after he was initially placed on observation for 72 hours, he later found himself between a rock and hard place as he was left with no choice but to sign off “voluntarily” on his own extended stay at the mental hospital.
The only other option, he said, was for him to be “medically recommended” by his doctors for detention; therefore, he said, he went with what seemed at the time to be the lesser of two evils.
“The room was prepared for someone who was erratic but after his assessment, he [the doctor] determined that it wasn’t that drastic and I could have gotten things like a sheet and bed frame,” said Grimes, who has been permanently scarred by his recent experience.
However, he maintains that he is of sound mind and has no history of mental illness, while insisting that at no point during his institutionalization was medication ever given to him.