The loud bang from her fall startled PNM and UNC MPs alike, as the House was concluding debate on the Prison (Amendment) Bill 2010. Word that Persad-Bissessar had fallen flat and injured her shoulder spread through the Chamber. MPs, police officers and Parliament staffers immediately rushed to her assistance.
Education Minister Esther Le Gendre jumped up and helped Persad-Bissessar out of the Chamber with the assistance of police officers. Parliament staffers quickly brought chairs and glasses of water for the UNC leader. Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh, who is a medical doctor, left the chamber and then re-entered to brief Chief Whip Jack Warner about Persad-Bissessar’s condition.
Newsday intercepted Gopeesingh and Princes Town North MP Subhas Panday as they escorted Persad-Bissessar out of the Red House to a waiting Parliament vehicle. The UNC leader held on to her left wrist as she was gently eased into the vehicle by her fellow MPs. Persad-Bissessar, who was supposed to hold a news conference with Public Services Association president Watson Duke at the 4.30 pm tea break about the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority, told Newsday: “Jack is handling that meeting.” Gopeesingh and Subhas climbed into the vehicle which promptly departed for St Clair.
At the end of that conference, Warner told reporters Persad-Bissessar had slipped at the steps near the public gallery. “Of course I’m concerned, because after all she has a lot of work to do. She has a function tomorrow to say thanks, but I’m quite sure she is so resilient and so strong, she will recover.” Warner did not attribute her fall to overwork. “Mrs Persad-Bissessar is no stranger to hard work,” he said.
Persad-Bissessar arrived at St Clair Medical Centre at 4.45 pm. She was gently eased into a wheelchair by a hospital attendant and taken inside. Gopeesingh and Subhas followed close on her heels. Gopeesingh and Subhas emerged an hour later to brief reporters waiting outside about the UNC leader’s health. “Mrs Persad-Bissessar, on the western side of the Parliament, tripped on the carpet and fell down two flights of stairs just to the western end and hit her left shoulder,” Gopeesingh said. “She was in a lot of pain and we brought her to St Clair to have her evaluated. She seems to have a small fracture of the head of the humerus. She is in a lot less pain now... we have her on pain relief,” he added.
Subhas said Persad-Bissessar had an X-ray and an MRI done to determine the extent of her injury. “ We are waiting an orthopaedic consultant to evaluate whether she would just need a sling or any operating procedure done,” Gopeesingh said. Disclosing that he and Clerk of the House Jacqui Sampson arranged for Persad-Bissessar to be brought to St Clair for treatment, Gopeesingh said: “We need an emergency system for Parliament because we took almost 20 minutes to reach here.”
Asked if Persad-Bissessar’s fall had eased tensions within the party over moves to have her replace Basdeo Panday as Opposition Leader, Gopeesingh replied: “There are no tensions. Nothing comes before health.” Subhas, Panday’s brother, said Persad-Bissessar was his colleague and he was concerned about her well-being. Subhas, Panday’s daughter and Oropouche West MP Mickela Panday, St Augustine MP Vasant Bharath and Couva South MP Kelvin Ramnath are all opposed to Persad-Bissessar being appointed Opposition Leader.
Before re-entering the centre with Subhas, Gopeesingh said he had informed Speaker Barry Sinanan about Persad-Bissessar’s condition. After they went inside, Fyzabad MP Chandresh Sharma and UNC deputy chairman Dr Fuad Khan arrived at the centre.
Khan emerged at 5.45 pm to tell reporters that orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Toby was looking after Persad-Bissessar. “It’s not a very bad injury. She will be able to leave tomorrow (Saturday),” Khan said. Gopeesingh, Subhas and Sharma exited the hospital 15 minutes later.
“Dr David Toby saw her. She has a small fracture at the head of the humerus. She will not need any surgery for the time being and she is going to be on conservative treatment for the next two days with pain relief,” Gopeesingh said. He added: “Subsequent to that, further relief will be made by the orthopaedic surgeon.”
Based on her recovery, Gopeesingh said Persad-Bissessar could return home either today or tomorrow. He said Persad-Bissessar was in good spirits and continuing to perform her duties from her hospital bed. “She said, ‘Boys don’t worry go back to Parliament and do the work of the Parliament’,” Gopeesingh added.
As Gopeesingh spoke to reporters, Khan embraced him and Sharma. “I get these fellas to sign the letter,” Khan quipped. Newsday exclusively reported that a letter had been drafted for submission to President George Maxwell Richards once Persad-Bissessar got the support of seven UNC MPs to have her appointed Opposition Leader. She already has the support of four MPs. Gopeesingh, Sharma and Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal have reportedly added their names to this group.
Sharma and Gopeesingh did not respond to reporters’ questions on whether they were now supporting Persad-Bissessar. Asked if Persad-Bissessar was now the Opposition Leader or soon would be, Gopeesingh laughed and said: “Dr Khan is just joking. That’s another matter, we are dealing with the medical matters.”
Before the House adjourned last night, Prime Minister Patrick Manning stood up and said the sitting could not end without some expression of empathy for Persad-Bissessar and the “nasty, headlong” fall she suffered earlier in the Chamber. “We hope that after a speedy recovery, she would return to the service of the people of Siparia and the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We express our empathy on behalf of those on this side of the House,” Manning said as Government MPs thumped their desks in support.
Gopeesingh thanked Manning for his good wishes and informed MPs that Persad-Bissessar was resting comfortably at St Clair Medical Centre. Contacted outside of Parliament, Panday, the Couva North MP, said: “I wish her a speedy recovery.” He told Newsday he was still Opposition Leader, having sat earlier in the day in the seat designated for this post which bore the name of his constituency of “Couva North.”
He also sent a letter to Persad-Bissessar, stamped ‘Confidential’ and addressed to her at the Parliament, at about 1.15 pm yesterday. He would not disclose the contents of the letter. He also dismissed reports that he was clearing out the Office of the Opposition Leader on Charles Street, Port-of-Spain. Warner declined to say whether Persad-Bissessar now has the support of enough Opposition MPs to replace Panday as Opposition Leader.