THE Public Service Union (PSU) says that one of its members is seeking an apology from local health authorities after being strip searched while on her period.
Union executives have described the incident, which apparently took place on June 14, 2022, as “disrespectful” and “humiliating”, and reports are that the member — a female attendant at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) was unaware as to why she was being searched at the time.
“What our member is seeking is just an apology.
“An apology from her supervisors, persons who would’ve called her name and involved her in this incident. It has not been forthcoming,” Kathleen Nanton-Davis, the PSU’s grievance officer told media at a press conference on August 9.
“She has returned to work but as she noted, it’s not the same as before. She’s uncomfortable, … because the synergy has been lost and the family that she thought she had down there, the camaraderie, it has been lost and she is just asking for an apology”.
According to the Union’s grievance officer, the permanent worker of two years was carrying out her daily duties when she was called by another worker, who informed her that the supervisor requested her presence.
The worker is said to have gone to the supervisor’s office, where she was approached by police officers.
Nanton-Davis said the hospital worker was taken into a room, where a female police officer asked her to remove her garments.
“Now she is there, she is wondering why as she said, ‘why do I have to remove my clothes?’ The officer told her to just do what was said,” the grievance officer reported.
She said the worker took off her clothes and informed the female officer that she was menstruating, but the officer told her that she would have to take off her underwear.
“To be asked to strip right down to your undies and to inform the officer that ‘I am on my monthly’; you would think that some courtesy would’ve been extended to her. She was told that she had to take off everything, which she made a mess because it was a heavy flow…” Nanton-Davis said.
The grievance officer added that “a warrantless search” was carried out, as the worker consented to being searched and nothing was found.
After getting dressed, the worker was apparently taken to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
Nanton-Davis reported that the attendant kept asking ‘why are you taking me there? Why are you searching me? What have I done?’ but that no information was given to her.
She was apparently also denied a phone call while at CID.
“While she was there, she asked that she be escorted to the bathroom to do a change.That was denied also, so a mess was made and then she was taken to the wash room,” the grievance officer told media last Tuesday. “Hours passed and word got to her boyfriend that she was at the CID, and he came and because of that visit, it prompt(ed) a search at her home. Nothing was found at her home.”
The grievance officer continued: “She keep asking ‘why is it I’m here, what reason you’re keeping me here?’ Nothing was responded to her. She stated that instead of being informed, she was told with expletive language to shut up and do not ask any questions”.
Nanton-Davis described the situation as humiliating, given the way in which she was being spoken to, but also, apparent “discrimination of her affiliation, as in her family”.
The grievance officer said the worker’s sister is a popular social media personality and “her brother who got into some trouble” were mentioned by Police.
It was not until 4 pm that day that the worker was given back her belongings and told that she could leave.
She was apparently told by an officer, that money was stolen and she was one of the persons chosen to be searched and do a thorough investigation into.
The worker reported the matter to the PSU, which represents her, and the Union says it wrote to Cuthbert Knights, the permanent secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health about the matter.
Elroy Boucher, president of the PSU is calling on the PS of Health to have the matter addressed.
“She is not suing you or the ministry, she just needs something as simple as an apology because of the manner in which she has been disrespected. I trust that will be forthcoming,” Boucher said.
However he is of the view that the relevant authorities should be sued for what transpired.
The Union’s president also revealed they have sent the matter to its lawyers, Jomo Thomas and Shirlan ‘Zita’ Barnwell.
“Often times, when you have lower salaried workers, a pressure is brought to bear on them. I mentioned the fact that she was told, if you continue to talk about this, you can lose your job,” he said. These people, including many even above those grades, are literally living pay cheque [to] pay cheque. Economic times are hard, people don’t want to lose their jobs. That’s why people go and take the [COVID-19] vaccines too — even teachers; many of them took the vaccine because of their jobs. Survival. So, survival is what she is looking at. It is not to say that they will not be sued because the matter is still open,” he said.
Boucher further noted that the worker is perhaps saying she wants just an apology “because of all the pressure that is brought to bear on her”.
“But the lawyer is involved. Our advice to the lawyers is to take whatever legal action is necessary to bring justice for her,” he said.