'I'M NOT MAD'
By Nalinee Seelal Wednesday, April 4 2012
Cheryl Miller cried when she learnt yesterday of the outpouring of love and support she is receiving from her colleagues who are demanding her release from the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital where she was committed 14 days ago after being forcibly taken away by mental health officers from her workplace at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.
Miller’s sister Doreen shared this news with Newsday after she and her brother Gordon visited Miller yesterday at Ward 1 of the St Ann’s hospital.
Doreen said Cheryl’s face lit up when she saw them thinking they had come for her.
But when they broke the news to her that doctors had not yet signed any release papers, Miller became a bit sad, said Doreen.
Doreen showed Miller a copy of yesterday’s Newsday which exclusively reported her plight on the front page and while reading the article a male nurse took the newspaper away from Miller and said it was against the rules of the hospital.
Miller had read enough of the article and, according to Doreen, remarked, “I can’t believe how much support I am receiving and this is the only thing apart from prayers which is keeping me sane at the moment.”
Doreen informed her sister that every effort is being made to have her released from the St Ann’s hospital and Miller again pleaded with her to not let the matter be swept under the carpet.
Doreen said her sister is eager to go home to feed her three pet cats Sunflower, Jungle and Jub Jub and to also return to her job as an accountant at the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development.
Miller is also an information technology (IT) student at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine and is missing examinations.
“She begged me, ‘Please get me out of here, I am not mad and I definitely don’t want to be eating any hot cross buns here at St Ann’s hospital on Good Friday’,” Doreen told Newsday.
Doreen said as she and her brother left the hospital, she saw Miller looking at them through a burglar-proofed window at Ward 1.
“I myself felt the pain that my sister is going through and I am now more determined than ever to do everything that I can even seek legal advice to have my sister returned home,” said Doreen.
Doreen, a Board of Inland Revenue employee, said she was convinced that the Mental Health Act had been breached when her sister was taken from her workplace and carted off to the St Ann’s hospital on March 21.
After leaving the St Ann’s hospital yesterday, Doreen teamed up with Miller’s co-workers who staged a lunchtime protest outside Tower D, Wrighton Road, Port-of-Spain where the Gender Ministry is located.
The employees were joined by colleagues from the Ministry of Sport, where Miller previously worked, and they carried placards which read, “Free Cheryl Miller Now!”, “Talk for Your Rights and Go to the Mad House,” and “No Human Rights! Who next?” and “Kidnapping”.
The Ministry of Sport employees said they have known Miller for almost 19 years and have never known her to be violent. “She is quiet, one of the most quiet persons you could find,” one person said.
Colleagues from the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development said they believe Miller was “a victim of working in a hostile environment created by the administration.”
On March 21, Miller had an outburst with a senior official after complaining about being victimised and was writing an apology for her action when mental health officers arrived and took her away to St Ann’s. Her colleagues said Miller was never a danger to herself or any member staff and her committal to the hospital was unjustified.
A colleague said of Miller’s outburst, “The girl got up and voiced her opinion. It is something that people always do.”
The protesting co-workers said Miller had “an issue” with another staff member, who reported her to Deputy Permanent Secretary Jasmine Pascall.
“Miller got up in her cubicle and said she was being treated like a dog. That was her outburst,” said some of the protesters yesterday.
Abdul Haqq, administrator at the St Ann’s hospital, said he was not the person who could shed any information regarding Miller and referred Newsday to Medical Chief of Staff Dr Ian Hypolite, but Hypolite said he returned from vacation recently and has asked for a report on the matter.
When pressed in a second phone call on if proper procedure was carried out in the warding of Miller, Hypolite referred Newsday to the Communications Department of the Northwest Regional Health Authority for further information.
Also yesterday, Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan said he has asked his permanent secretary for a full report on the matter.
“We have to find out if the patient was spoken to and if she agreed to go willingly to the St Ann’s hospital,” Khan said. “I have asked for a full report on the matter and as soon as I get the report I will decide what course of action will be deemed necessary.”
Newsday sought the opinion of a senior doctor at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital who said a breach of the Mental Health Act occurred when Miller was taken directly from her workplace to the St Ann’s hospital.
He added that Miller should have been taken to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital to be assessed and a referral letter given to mental health officers to have her admitted at St Ann’s.
According to the Mental Health Act, the psychiatric hospital director or a duly authorised medical officer may admit a person as an urgent admission patient if an application is made by “any person who alleges that the person ... is mentally ill and, in the interest of his health and for the safety and protection of others, or either of them, ought to be detained in a hospital. However, such an application must be accompanied by a certificate from a medial practitioner other than the medical officer of the psychiatric hospital.
However, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, secretary of the Psychitric Association of Trinidad and Tobago, said the mental health officers could have determined whether Miller needed to be taken to the general hospital or the psychiatric hospital.
“If the mental health personnel judged the person to be suffering from a mental illness and not a medical condition that could present with confusion and irritability and aggression, for example, a head injury, the mental health officer at that stage may decide that St Ann’s hospital would be the better place to get an assessment. If the mental health officer thinks it is a medical condition presenting with abnormal behaviour then the Port-of-Spain hospital would have been the adequate choice where CT scans, blood testing could have been performed,” said Deyalsingh.
What the Mental Health Act says
urgent admission patient.
7. (1) The Psychiatric Hospital Director or a duly authorised medical officer may, subject to subsection (3), admit to a hospital as an urgent admission patient any person in respect of whom an application is made.
(2) An application under subsection (l)—
(a) may be made by any person who alleges that the person in respect of whom the application is made is mentally ill and, in the interest of his health and for the safety and protection of others, or either of them, ought to be detained in a hospital; and
(b) shall be accompanied by a certificate of a medical practitioner other than the duly authorised medical officer responsible for the admission of the person.
(3) A person shall not be admitted to a hospital as an urgent admission patient if more than three days have elapsed since the date of issue of the medical certificate referred to in subsection (2)(b).
8. (1) The Psychiatric Hospital Director or a duly authorised medical officer shall, within forty- eight hours of admitting to a hospital an urgent admission patient, make or cause to be made on the patient such examination as he may consider necessary for determining whether or not the patient is mentally ill and in need of care and treatment in a hospital.
(2) If on examination the Psychiatric Hospital Director or the duly authorised medical officer is satisfied that the patient is in need of care and treatment in a hospital, he shall keep the patient in the hospital until he is satisfied that—
(a) it is in the interest of the patient to discharge him; and
(b) the patient is not in need of any further care and treatment in a hospital.