Health Ministry faces lawsuit for allowing facility to stay open

The fam­i­ly of a man who died while housed at the Trans­formed Life Min­istries Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre last year, is con­sid­er­ing su­ing the Min­istry of Health for its al­leged neg­li­gence in al­low­ing the fa­cil­i­ty to be op­er­at­ed.

At­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the rel­a­tives of War­ren Man­gal sig­nalled their in­ten­tion in a pre-ac­tion pro­to­col sent to Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh and the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al, yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

“We have been re­tained with a view to fil­ing a claim for breach of our client’s con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and for neg­li­gence against the State for au­tho­riz­ing and ap­prov­ing TLM­RC as a safe place with com­pe­tent staff for out­pa­tients from the St Ann’s Hos­pi­tal to be housed and for con­spir­ing to con­ceal the con­di­tions of de­ten­tion,” at­tor­ney Jared Ja­groo said.

In the let­ter, Ja­groo and his col­leagues made a re­quest un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act for the min­istry to pro­vide them with doc­u­ments on the min­istry’s re­la­tion­ship with the cen­tre, which would as­sist them in prepar­ing their case.

The doc­u­ments in­clude the ap­pli­ca­tions which the cen­tre and its pri­ma­ry Pas­tor Glen Awong would have sub­mit­ted to be ap­proved as a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre; the min­istry’s pol­i­cy, prac­tice, pro­ce­dure, and cri­te­ria for li­cens­ing such cen­tres; records of the pay­ments and sub­ven­tions that the gov­ern­ment made to the cen­tre and/or Awong and copies of as­sess­ment re­ports of the cen­tre per­formed by min­istry staff.

The min­istry and AG’s Of­fice was giv­en 30 days in which to re­spond to the fam­i­ly’s re­quest be­fore they de­cide whether to file a ju­di­cial re­view law­suit com­pelling dis­clo­sure.

The lawyers al­so said they were con­sid­er­ing a claim against the cen­tre.

“Ad­di­tion­al­ly, we al­ready in­struct­ed to bring a claim for dam­ages for neg­li­gence against the TLM­RC for fraud­u­lent­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ing it­self as a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre that could pro­vide a rea­son­able, ac­cept­able and ap­pro­pri­ate stan­dard of care for the de­ceased with a com­ple­ment of suit­ably qual­i­fied and prop­er­ly trained staff,” Ja­groo said.

In the let­ter, the at­tor­neys sought to give an out­line of the cir­cum­stances which led to Man­gal’s rel­a­tives com­mit­ting him to the pri­vate fa­cil­i­ty in 2017.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, Man­gal was di­ag­nosed with Bipo­lar Dis­or­der at the St Ann’s Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal be­tween 2010 and 2011 and was as­signed to the Ari­ma Men­tal Health Out­pa­tient Clin­ic.

In Ju­ly 2017, Man­gal was ward­ed at the hos­pi­tal for two weeks be­fore be­ing dis­charged by doc­tors.

Still un­able to care for him, his fam­i­ly was ad­vised by an em­ploy­ee of the min­istry’s So­cial Ser­vices De­part­ment that he could be com­mit­ted to the cen­tre.

“The fam­i­ly was as­sured that TLM­RC was a “gov­ern­ment ap­proved” fa­cil­i­ty that op­er­at­ed un­der the su­per­vi­sion and with the ap­proval of the Min­istry of Health,” Ja­groo said.

Ja­groo claimed that Man­gal’s moth­er and sis­ter were on­ly al­lowed to tour cer­tain ar­eas of the fa­cil­i­ty, lo­cat­ed along the East­ern Main Road in Arou­ca be­fore they paid and Man­gal was al­lowed to en­ter.

He claimed that the rel­a­tives at­tempt­ed to vis­it Man­gal dur­ing his first month there but were de­nied.

“On sev­er­al oc­ca­sions, how­ev­er, when the fam­i­ly vis­it­ed and spoke to the de­ceased, he in­formed them that he was ex­treme­ly un­hap­py, was forced to wash the dish­es and mop the church and begged to go home,” Ja­groo said.

He al­so claimed that Man­gal was forced to at­tend church ser­vices on a Sat­ur­day and was pre­vent­ed to leave the fa­cil­i­ty to vis­it his rel­a­tives on Christ­mas and birth­days.

Man­gal even­tu­al­ly died on De­cem­ber 15 last year.

Ja­groo claimed that al­though Man­gal was re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for the dis­or­der and asth­ma, his cause of death was list­ed as pul­monary oede­ma, or ex­cess flu­id in the lungs.

The fam­i­ly re­quest­ed a tox­i­col­o­gy re­port from the Foren­sic Sci­ence Cen­tre but are yet to re­ceive it due to a back­log caused by faulty ma­chin­ery.

“This is un­sat­is­fac­to­ry and un­ac­cept­able. It has served to in­ten­si­fy and pro­long the fam­i­ly’s an­guish, pain, and suf­fer­ing,” Ja­groo said.

Ja­groo claimed that the rel­a­tive’s emo­tion­al trau­ma in­ten­si­fied af­ter po­lice led by Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith raid­ed the cen­tre, last Wednes­day.

He al­leged that they were fur­ther shocked af­ter view­ing a press con­fer­ence on the raid in which Deyals­ingh and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Cher­rie-Ann Critchlow-Cock­burn par­tic­i­pat­ed.

“The fam­i­ly was as­ton­ished to know that the Min­istry of Health and Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Fam­i­ly Ser­vices were aware of the state of this fa­cil­i­ty and failed to take the nec­es­sary ac­tion to shut it down,” Ja­groo said.

He not­ed that Deyals­ingh ad­mit­ted that his min­istry’s staff had in­spect­ed the fa­cil­i­ty and that it was in the process of mak­ing im­prove­ments to be li­cenced.

Ja­groo al­so made note of con­cerns with con­di­tions at the cen­tre, which Deyals­ingh quot­ed from re­ports of the staff of the Men­tal Health Unit of the min­istry.

Man­gal is al­so be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Anand Ram­lo­gan, SC, Ganesh Sa­roop, and Alvin Pariags­ingh.

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Story by DEREK ACHONG

Image by ABRAHAM DIAZ

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