Mentally challenged residents injured after being stripped, sprayed with cleaning detergent

By Michael Younge

Residents of Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) are calling on the Government of Guyana to look into a scandal that has erupted at the Hugo Chávez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration, after it was recently discovered that five residents of the Centre, allegedly fell ill after being doused and sprayed down with cleaning detergent and other chemicals because they reportedly missed a bathing session.
The incident is said to have occurred on Tuesday and was witnessed by several staff members and others at the Centre.
An employee, who witnessed the mistreatment of the men, who requested anonymity, told Guyana Times on Friday evening that the men were stripped, placed to sit down and then showered with the cleaning detergent, which was mixed with other substances used to clean household areas.
“They did nothing wrong… they merely missed the bath and didn’t bathe for the day,” the employee said, as it was related to this newspaper that the men, who were the victims of cruelty and mistreatment at the hands of the administrator, are mentally challenged in some cases and differently able in others.
The administrator of the Chávez Centre Carol Joseph. The names of the victims of Tuesday’s mistreatment are Mark Kingston, Leroy Nedd, Peter Fredricks, Chris Hopkinson and Lelon Jackman.
Guyana Times also viewed video evidence of the injuries sustained by the men following the incident.
The whistleblower said no doctor or nurse was called in to aid the men who are experiencing continued discomfort. “This incident will remain internal until somebody exposes it,” the employee said.

When contacted on Friday, Joseph denied that any such incident occurred at the facility. In fact, she questioned where the information was obtained before also vehemently rebuffing claims that the men were doused with detergent and other substances.
“Not to my knowledge, Sir…no…That is not accurate at all…There was no incident on this centre…I am surprised”, she remarked.
“Well, what is this,” she quizzed, before saying “well your information is incorrect. I have not given any instruction like that and that is strange,” she stated during the interview. Joseph pointed this newspaper to the Public Relations Department for the Social Protection Ministry as she invited this newspaper for a tour of the facility. She also denied verbally abusing staff members and depriving residents of a well-balanced meal.
“I don’t know who is doing this but some of these residents eat way better than some people on the road,” she stated, as he explained that “she is one of the nicest persons” to deal with.
The Centre was opened by former Social Security Minister, Dr Jenifer Webster back in 2013. It is fully self-sufficient, following the successful implementation of a programme launched in June 2017. Named for the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the Centre which is one of the main food suppliers to State benevolent centres, produces organic vegetables, chicken and fish.
Homeless persons from across Guyana are housed at the Centre, which has separate dorms for males and females, a kitchen, recreational, medical, training and dining facilities and conference rooms.