PM: State agencies failed paralysed teenager
January 11, 2013

PM: State agencies failed paralysed teenager

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has scolded various state agencies for failing to aid gunshot victim Sweet-I Robertson, and has made several urgent recommendations which would see the paralyzed teenager immediately receiving financial, medical and material assistance.{{more}}

In a memorandum dated January 3 to various State agencies, Gonsalves said, “it is evident that the state and its various agencies have failed Sweet-I.

“The regular monthly public assistance is wholly inadequate. Her housing situation is entirely inadequate. Care of her by professional caregivers has been absent. There has been little or no follow-up. Her physiotherapy treatment is surely inadequate…, “ the memo states.

“Indeed, the State and its agencies have dropped the ball and have left her simply to waste away. This is unacceptable. Multiple interventions to improve her condition and quality of life are urgently required,” the memo said.

Robertson, 19, was caught in crossfire stemming from an altercation between young men on October 30, 2009, while on her way home from a heritage pageant at the Petit Bordel Secondary School (PBSS). Once a star athlete at her school, the Chateaubelair resident has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot — leaving her sister, Racquel Robertson to cater to her every need. There is no indoor toilet or pipe-borne water in their small, rented wall house.

Despite her condition, the brave teen wrote five CXC subjects in 2011 and gained four passes – including a grade 1 in Mathematics.

The Prime Minister said he became aware of Robertson’s plight when an article was published in SEARCHLIGHT on December 21, 2012. The day after publication of the article in SEARCHLIGHT, Gonsalves visited Robertson at her Chateaubelair home, and found that “despite Sweet-I’s injury and condition, she remains stoic, pleasant, and optimistic of life…,” the memo read.

Following the visit, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, made several recommendations and suggestions, which he said should be coordinated by Director of Family Affairs (Ag) Nichola Evans and Cabinet Secretary Susan Dougan, both of whom will also oversee the day-to-day care of Sweet-I.

With immediate effect, Sweet-I’s monthly allowance for living expenses has been increased to EC$1,000 from the EC$200 regular public assistance she had been receiving.

“I suggest that the National Lottery and/or the National Insurance Services (NIS) be asked to pay the other $800 monthly on an on-going basis,” he said.

The efforts of Sweet-I’s family to care for her will be supplemented by a trained caregiver provided by the Ministry of Social Development or the Ministry of Health.

Dr Jerrol Thompson, the Ministry of Health, and the Cabinet Secretary have been asked to make all necessary arrangements for Sweet-I and a family member to travel to Cuba for medical/surgical treatment.

The cost of the treatment in Cuba will be shared by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the NIS, the memo said.

Sweet-I is also to receive a free parcel of land in Chateaubelair, “upon which a suitably-equipped house is to be built at the Government’s expense for her”.

But in the meantime, the National Lotteries Authority, the NIS and the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) have been mandated, under the leadership of the HLDC, to “provide improved accommodation and facilities including the erection of suitable indoor toilet facilities and a refurbished room”.

Sweet-I is also being provided with means by which she can communicate with the rest of the world. The National Lotteries Authority has been asked to purchase for her a touch-screen Tablet. Her current accommodation already has an Internet connection. Wife of the Prime Minister, Eloise Gonsalves, has provided a cell phone for Sweet-I and has pledged a monthly telephone allowance for her emergency calls.

Sweet-I will also be provided with more regular and adequate physiotherapy and a new wheelchair, while the Ministry of Education has been asked to “assess prospects for Sweet-I’s further education and make appropriate arrangements”.

“It is my hope that the various agencies and persons act promptly and in a sustained manner on this case. We owe it to Sweet-I,” Gonsalves said in the memo.

He further added that various agencies are free to make other suggestions/recommendations to improve Sweet-I’s condition of life.

“Please, do not allow bureaucratic or personal lethargy to limit our efforts to help Sweet-I. This is urgent,” the memo states.

In a brief telephone interview with Sweet-I on Wednesday afternoon, the excitement in her voice was evident.

“I am glad that I am going to get some help. I am just thankful to the Prime Minister for helping me,” Sweet-I told SEARCHLIGHT.

The optimistic lass said with the help she is about to receive, she is confident that she will walk again.

Asked what was the best moment of her Christmas holiday, with a slight chuckle before a reply, Sweet-I said, “Hearing the news that doctors are going to help me.”

Sweet-I’s sister Racquel also expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for assisting their family.

“To be honest, I am very, very happy. I’m just happy that my sister is going to get some attention,” she said.

She too is confident that Sweet-I will walk again.

Racquel added that she did not expect that the Prime Minister would have journeyed all the way to Chateaubelair to see her sister.

“I really appreciate it.”

She also thanked SEARCHLIGHT their assistance.

Shelton Hooper, the man who shot Sweet-I, was last month sentenced to five years in jail for wounding Robertson.