Health Minister takes predecessor to task for ‘defending the indefensible’

  • Minister of Health Patricia Gordon (Photo by Akil Simmons)

    Minister of Health Patricia Gordon (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Health Minister Patricia Gordon Pamplin has slammed her predecessor Zane DeSilva, for “defending the indefensible” during his two-year stint at the helm of the Ministry.

And she also attacked the former Chief of Staff at King Edward VII Memorial, saying that “a culture of fear” developed during Donald Thomas’s controversial five-year reign as the hospital’s chief medic. Dr Thomas was suspended last July and resigned from his post shortly after, before an investigation into his performance could be concluded.

Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday on a recent review of the Bermuda Hospitals Board by an independent consultant, Ms Gordon Pamplin said, under the former management of the hospital, “there were allegations of nepotism in hiring, or retaliatory firing”.

She indicated that fully qualified staff had been “blackballed” because of personal dislikes and “asinine, outrageous” allegations and that “we have seen an institution in which there was a culture of fear that had developed”.

She added that, since becoming Minister, she had been approached on a weekly basis by people “coming out of the woodwork indicating that there were contracts, contracts that were not fulfilled and there were verbal contracts made by the former Chief of Staff”.

“You cannot look at those types of things and say that the individuals conducting business at the time did a good job of it — that defies logic,” she said.

The Minister pointed out that the review was commissioned by current hospital CEO Venetta Symonds last year after “she sensed that something was not quite right” with the way the hospital had been managed under the previous leadership.

Ms Gordon Pamplin noted that, when she had previously raised her own concerns about the running of the hospital, she had been “castigated and vilified” by Mr DeSilva who had insisted that the Board and hospital “were working really well”.

But she said that, according to the consultant’s report, her concerns had been well-justified.

She questioned why Dr Thomas’s was able to secure non-disclosure and non-disparaging clauses in his termination settlement, saying that Mr DeSilva must have agreed to those conditions.

And she also questioned why Mr DeSilva had approved bonus payments to senior hospital executives.

“That was, to my mind of all the things that happened perhaps the most egregious because nobody wants to think that money which is being put in on the front end is being haemorrhaged out the back end by way of bonuses,” she said.

“Somewhere along the way, somebody had to have agreed that. Somebody dropped the ball. Somebody fell asleep at the wheel.

“I am a little disturbed when we start to defend the indefensible because, notwithstanding what one might feel about an individual personally and whether they’re a good guy personally, if we cannot look to the impact of what they have done on the institution that they represent then we should not be adverse to calling them to account and I think this is what we fail to do too frequently. We just gloss over things and say what a wonderful guy and what a wonderful job you’ve done when truth be told, that’s not the case.”

“When somebody is in charge of an institution and their methodology is such that it undermines the morale of the staff within that organisation, it’s time for us to have a second look and it’s time for us to determine whether the decision was good, bad or indifferent. If someone is being investigated concerning failure to follow directions, questions regarding financial stewardship, lack of attention to quality of care, and pre-employment background checks, once certainly has to question how can that possibly be defended by anybody, never mind the former Minister.”

l See separate story for MP Zane DeSilva’s response.

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