Mother: Special-needs son abused at San Fernando hospital

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

San Fernando General Hospital – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

AN elderly woman is claiming her special-needs son was physically abused by staff at the San Fernando General Hospital (SFGH) and is calling for an investigation and punishment for the perpetrator/s.

Amelia Browne wept as she called on the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) to find out who abused her son Michael, 55, while he was being treated at the SFGH.

Browne, of Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando, said Michael told her he was pushed down and dragged by members of staff sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

She said the injuries left him unable to walk properly or even stand, as his knees were swollen and bruised.

A SFGH staff member who accompanied Browne to Newsday’s office said “Mental patients go through hell in there, and all the SFGH do is cover up.”

The worker said when he realised the hospital was discharging the abused patient into his mother’s care, he advised her against it, took her to the public complaints department at SFGH to register her complaint, and to Newsday, “because they were too quick to discharge him in an another attempt to again cover up the incident.”

Browne explained that her son, triggered by loud music and obscene oral disagreements, began acting “abnormally,” on the brink of becoming violent, which was unusual for him.

She said she had appealed to her neighbour to lower the volume of the music and reported the matter to the police, her MP Faris Al-Rawi and the Environmental Management Authority, but the situation is continuing.

On her son’s clinic day, which was on Monday, she said she told the doctor in the neurology clinic about his behaviour. Browne said he was referred to the Accident and Emergency Department for a series of tests, including a chest x-ray and CAT scan and, bloodwork the same day.

After the results, he was admitted to a ward for monitoring and observation.

“I left him in the ward around midnight on Tuesday, with a change of clothing and with the assurance that he will be taken care of.”

With tears streaming down her face, she said, “When I went there on Tuesday evening, he was wearing the same clothes and was smelling a bit funny.”

The soft-spoken mother of five, who lives alone with her son and is his primary caregiver, said staff undertook to clean and dress him in fresh clothes after her emotional outburst.

“He was okay. They gave him medicine to calm him down. On Wednesday, he was much better, walking, talking, healthy and strong. He was calm.”

He was discharged on Thursday morning, but Browne got the shock of her life when her son was brought to her to be taken home.

“When I saw him, he was barely able to walk and was supported by two attendants. I cried out, ‘What is wrong with my child? What all you do to my son?’ I left my child in perfect condition, healthy and strong, hours before.”

She got no answers from staff, but her son told her as his blood pressure was being taken, a member of staff held his arms, pushed him down on his knees, and then dragged him to where they wanted him to go.

She said she refused to take him home in that condition and he was readmitted to the ward.

Browne said she was not satisfied with the response of the complaints department, as she was told “a little investigation was done, but none of the nurses who worked that shift were present.”

She said she was worried about leaving her son at the SFGH, but at her age, and living alone, she had no choice.

“I trust God there would be no repeat of that situation.

“I just want answers and for somebody to pay for my son’s pain and suffering.

“He went there seeking treatment and what he got instead was abuse.”

Newsday sent a message to the SWRHA’s communications department, which asked for some time to investigate.