Verna: I accept full responsibilty

“It was a decision of management,” she said. “I am the minister who is responsible for the ministry. The final responsibility will always have to be mine.”

In an interview with Newsday during a break in yesterday’s sitting of the Senate at Tower D, Port-of-Spain, St Rose-Greaves said she was sorry that Miller’s name and personal issues have hit the public domain. “It is not what I would have wanted.”

Miller was taken by mental health workers from her workplace to the psychiatric hospital on March 21 following an outburst after she felt her side of a story was not considered. She was moved from her office in spite of her protestations and without her family’s knowledge.

The action, St Rose-Greaves said, “was first and foremost taken out of concern and care.”

On suggestions of victimisation, she said, “I cannot imagine what reason we would have for trying to victimise her.”

The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, St Rose-Greaves said was a new one with workers coming from different ministries. It was a challenge which they hoped, she said, to manage in ways that would reduce any kind of fallout.

Workers are suffering, she said, “issues of loss, of freedom, of status. Even Cheryl’s (Miller) situation may have been as a result of the change.”

Asked to comment on workers’ claim that the working environment was a hostile one that might have triggered Miller’s outburst, St Rose-Greaves said, “that is something we would have to discuss further.

“I cannot say that I have tried to create a working environment that is hostile. It is a function of change and change management is something that we have to continue to dialogue in going forward.”

Asked what triggered Miller’s committal, she said, “I think it would be unfair of me to even begin to describe what has been happening in terms of Cheryl. It is not my place to do that.”

She held a meeting the next day with staff members after they petitioned her by letter. She thought it was a good meeting and “was a little bit surprised that it has gone the way it is going.”

Asked whether Miller’s behaviour was dangerous, she said, “I would be foolhardy to even pronounce on whether she was dangerous or not.”

However, she said the incident gave them “an opportunity to discuss issues of mental wellness. Mental wellness is about all of us being able to enjoy the best quality of life.”

Based on what “transpired in the workplace (which she would not disclose),” St Rose-Greaves said, “the persons who were in charge of the situation and in authority, and the workers, did not want any harm to come to her, for her to harm herself, or, to harm anybody else.”

The ministry, she said, was “willing to do whatever is required to assist her.”

Asked whether assisting her meant helping to have her released from the psychiatric hospital, St Rose-Greaves said, “I don’t know if that is in my jurisdiction to have her released. That is (the responsibility of) Cheryl’s family, the doctors and the institution that are looking after her.” On the question of her human rights being violated, she said, “it is something that needs to be raised. We vowed to take a human rights approach in our work at the ministry. That is something we need to discuss further, too, in terms of processes, procedures, protocols.”

When treating with human rights, she said people’s right to a better quality of life, a right to proper health care and privacy, and treating with the issue of other workers’ rights at the workplace in which they must feel safe and secure must be considered.

An analysis of Miller’s situation, she said, “would perhaps point to whether her rights were violated, and what redress, if any, needs to be taken.”

She said, “I would never deliberately set out to cause any kind of undermining of anybody’s rights or harm them, or anything like that.” From day one, she said she told workers that she wanted a ministry that was going to look after them.

“We are care-givers and my experience has been that very often care-givers do not receive care. We have issues of burn out.”

Noting that Miller’s family might be seeking legal redress to have Miller taken out of the mental health institution, she said, “I would ask them in the middle of all of this, to consider her well being, and to seek the advice of care-givers, and the doctors before they do anything.”


"Verna: I accept full responsibilty"

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