'Slave' Rehab Centre was following guidelines to improve - Minister
Transformed Life Ministry was raided this morning and 69 people, some in cages, were rescued.
Transformed Life Ministry was in the process of making improvements to be recognised as an approved mental health care facility when the police exercise on the facility took place.
Trinidad's Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, speaking at a press conference this afternoon, revealed that his Ministry undertook site visits and assessments and made recommendations for improvements.
Deyalsingh revealed that the Division of Ageing received a report on the facility which was sent to the Chief Medical Officer on June 14. He instructed the County Medical Officer to visit the site on June 21 in conjunction with the Division of Ageing and police officers from the Arouca police station.
He said they determined that the activities of the facility were of a psychiatric nature and on July 1, a team of three from the Mental Health Division of the MoH and the Northwest Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) conducted an assessment.
Among their findings were several caged seclusion rooms to temporarily house clients if and when they became violent, which at the time of the visit contained one client. All other clients were in common gathering areas and none were restrained.
They found that the institution has poor ventilation and lighting, poor record-keeping, inadequate records of patient care and insufficient staffing, the majority with a lack of relevant psychiatric qualification.
He said the Mental Health Unit issued a set of recommendations to Transformed Life Ministry, under the Mental Health Act, to meet requirements to become an approved home.
Among the recommendations were the immediate cessation of the admission of new clients, decanting of clients to address overcrowding, urgent training of all staff and hiring of qualified staff, improvement of ventilation and lighting and new policies regarding security measures, risk assessment and fire prevention.
“The home was in the process of adhering to these recommendations from the Mental Health Division,” he said, noting that an ad was put out two weeks ago for psychiatric nurses.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said the facility was raided by the police based on a tip-off following a flood of complaints about mistreatment.
He said anyone found to have broken any laws will be dealt with.
Sixty-nine people were rescued from Transformed Life Ministry. Two of the patients have been reunited with their families, one is being treated for a non-psychiatric condition and the rest have been sent to St Ann’s to be assessed.
Minister of Social Development and Family Services Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn said that any relationship with the Ministry and the Rehab Centre was terminated in 2015.
“The Ministry of Social Development and Transformed Life Ministry had a relationship during the period 2010 to 2015. As an NGO they applied to the Ministry for subventions, and the service they provided was to accommodate socially displaced, street dwellers and the homeless. During the period, however, the Ministry became increasingly concerned with a number of issues. One had to do with the conditions clients were being held and we also had concerns that they were submitting unsubstantiated invoices. We also looked at the issues of staffing, they didn’t have the numbers required nor did the staff possess all the skills required to take care of mentally ill persons and generally the living conditions were poor,” she said.
A decision, was taken, said the Minister, to terminate the relationship between April to July 2015 and the 36 clients housed there were moved to the New Horizon facility. The last payment was made to Transformed Life Ministries in July 2015.
Stating that this morning’s events was an eye-opener, Young appealed to citizens with relatives suffering from mental health issues to first ask questions about the facility’s legitimacy before and to take a tour of the facilities.
He appealed to anyone with concerns about any other facilities to come forward and inform the authorities.