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Closed nursery named as Heavenly Blessings

Inquiries continue: Kim Wilson, Minister of Health, talks about the need for high standards for child care (Photograph by Kevin Smith).

A nursery shut down after a 12-month-old boy suffered a serious head injury was named by the health minister yesterday.

Kim Wilson said Heavenly Blessings Nursery and Preschool, in Pembroke, remained closed and inquiries continued.

The Royal Gazette has learnt that the nursery planned to appeal against the closure order and claimed the Government’s action was contrary to the presumption of innocence until guilt was proved.

Ms Wilson said: “We are acutely aware of the need for quality care and the history of concerns. These concerns have been highlighted recently by a report of an infant allegedly suffering a head injury during his time in a daycare centre.

Ms Wilson added that all the affected families had been notified, and that a police investigation into the incident meant no further details would be provided.

Ms Wilson said: “Nevertheless, I can give assurances that an investigation is taking place and I want to assure the public that we, this government, take our responsibility for the care of Bermuda’s children very seriously.”

Michael Weeks, who was Minister of Social Development and Sport, revealed on Tuesday that the nursery had been closed as a precaution, although he said it was too early to confirm if the child’s injury happened there.

He refused to name the nursery involved but said there had been “a few” previous incidents.

The child was admitted to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit last Friday. He was airlifted overseas for further medical treatment the next day.

Mr Weeks said that the last update on the child’s condition suggested he had improved.

Ms Wilson could not provide an update on his condition today.

The health minister offered her “sincere thoughts and sorrow to the family of this child”.

Vernesha Symonds, the owner and director of Heavenly Blessings, which offers places for children aged from three months to four years, said she had been advised not to comment.

Sharon Rampersad-Ible, of law firm Smith and Co, who is acting for the nursery, confirmed an appeal against the closure would be launched.

She said: “We truly believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty; this presumption of innocence is the cornerstone of our legal system, so we have a problem with the way it was handled — the automatic closure, it alluded to guilt.

“Mr Weeks rightly admitted in his press conference that the investigation is ongoing. There has been no determination as to how the accident happened or where it happened.

“However, with the closure of the nursery indefinitely, I told him that it alluded to some guilt towards my client.”

Ms Rampersad-Ible added that the closure order was issued on Tuesday and the nursery owners had 14 days to appeal.

She said it was hoped the challenge, allowed under section 78 of the Children Act 1998, would be lodged by the end of today. The lawyer added the nursery was assisting the Department of Child and Family Services and the police with their investigations.

Ms Wilson said steps taken by the Government to increase safety and the quality of care at Bermuda’s daycare providers included the publication of childcare standards last November, which were updated in June.

She explained that amendments to the Children Act were approved by Cabinet in September and were expected to mean the creation of new legislation.

She said the Government was also considering the introduction of an “inter-agency team” which could review concerns over daycare services and “facilitate interventions, learning and improvements as needed”.

Ms Wilson said: “Parents need to be able to go to work and know and trust that the persons that are watching their children and caring for them will ensure their safety and promote their optimal healthy development.

“Our vision, as captured in the child care standards, is a community where parents, care providers and the various government agencies can vigorously collaborate to assure that Bermuda’s children are given the best start at life.”