The man who released a damning video of a disabled patient injured while being transported on Summerhaven’s bus, has been fired by the new administrator at the privately run facility.
Roger Richardson, 53, was called into the office of Rick Wynn last Wednesday, to be released of his services after working at the facility for the past seven years.
In a letter dated May 25, 2016, Mr Wynn stated that it had “come to the attention of the Board of Directors and the Administrator” that Mr Richardson “video recorded a resident and used that recording to exploit a vulnerable person, namely Roger Chasty”.
Mr Chasty was filmed shortly after he sustained a serious head wound on board Summerhaven’s bus in January. The wound required nine staples to close after he was thrown from his wheelchair while the bus was in transit. He was not strapped in when the accident occurred. Sources allege this same resident broke his collarbone in another accident on board the same bus, being driven by the same driver.
“In making this recording you violated the confidentiality of the resident and have attempted to bring your employer Summerhaven into dispute,” said Mr Wynn.
“As a result of this incident and for these two reasons…the Board no longer has confidence in you and believes that you have caused the Board to immediately terminate you on the basis of gross misconduct as your actions have been detrimental to residents and to the Board’s ability to administrate its affairs.
“Additionally, we ask that you not attend the Summerhaven premises again after today, and further that you refrain from communicating with our residents at all.”
Mr Richardson, who has worked as a Nurse’s Aid/Coordinator at Summerhaven since May 2009, said the termination came as no surprise.
“I think it’s a joke and I told him [Wynn] he’s a joke,” said Mr Richardson. Since his dismissal he has been to the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) and the Ombudsman. A letter citing “wrongful termination” calling for his reinstatement, was issued to Summerhaven by BIU Organizer Graham Nesbitt last week. Mr Richardson has also retained a lawyer to represent him moving forward.
As an advocate for the disabled, and their rights as human beings, he said he has been through countless meetings to address “serious issues” at Summerhaven with various authorities to no avail.
“I’m disappointed that all of these Government people are out here getting paid tens of thousands of dollars to protect the vulnerable, and the ones who try to help have no power. All this while the ones who have the power turn a blind eye to what’s really going on,” he said.
“I’m in this field because of the love I have for the people – the disabled residents. From where I stand, all I’ve seen from the so-called authorities is nothing but the protection of Board Chairman John Powell – not the residents. But I can assure you all that I’m willing to fight until the end to keep the dream of the founders of Summerhaven alive.”
He noted that Mr Powell, who is also the Facility Manager, “has been through three boards and six administrators”. On the recent appointment of Rick Wynn as the new administrator he said:
“Now I think he’s [Powell] found someone that has his same goal in mind. Whether he is qualified is a horse of a different colour.
“All I have seen him do is threaten residents, not to mention the fact that he fired me, which is not surprising.
“There was a patient left lying on his side the other day for six hours. He should have been turned three times in that time frame, and his father had to tell the female worker, who was outside in her car on her cell phone, to turn his son,” said Mr Richardson.
“All this while her co-worker was inside lying down on the couch while they were supposed to be working. Now I know a lot of you would think they were Bermudians. But no, they were not from here.”
What disturbs him most is the fact that privately run facilities like Summerhaven, are licenced to operate under legislative regulations. And licenced facilities must meet legal requirements as set out by Government.
Ultimately, he said: “The buck stops with the Health Minister, who is paid by local taxpayers to do their job – all civil servants are,” said Mr Richardson.
“All I ever tried to do is to help resolve the many problems we’ve had over the past several years – abusive situations that have yet to be addressed! And as far as I’m concerned it’s not over!”
His comments were echoed by the man who sounded the initial alarm in the House of Assembly last year. Former Progressive Labour Party MP Glenn Blakeney unveiled the damning list of concerns regarding Summerhaven in the House of Assembly in November.
He called for an independent investigation into Summerhaven and Board Chairman John Powell. He also called on Government to see to it that Mr Powell is relieved of his duties. Since then, Bermuda Real has been told that Mr Powell plans to retire soon. However, this has yet to be confirmed.
“It is curiously outrageous that the person who is at the centre of the entire Summerhaven mountain of alleged abuses, remains unscathed,” said Mr Blakeney. “All this while a conscientious employee/caretaker, who has been a committed advocate on behalf of the residents was summarily terminated for exposing major concerns and alleged gross misbehavior!
“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but there certainly seems to be an attempt to insulate the alleged abuser via a concerted cover up, especially since the call for an independent investigation has seemingly been ignored, and the fact that access to a major previous report that was done on Summerhaven has not been forthcoming.
“I have also been informed that legitimate media requests for access has not received a positive response from the PATI Commissioner, which actually makes a profound mockery of the system.”
Mr Blakeney also released emails between him and Minister Atherden, questioning what exactly it will take for Government to enforce the law.
In his email to the Minister, dated May 15, 2016, Mr Blakeney wrote: “I personally feel that your best efforts will be in vain unless John Powell is completely relieved of involvement at Summerhaven, regardless of mitigating circumstances, given the gravity of unfathomable allegations, which have been brought to your attention…
“Such refusal is farcical and indeed makes a mockery of PATI, and smacks of what appears to be a cover up to protect Powell, while he apparently continues to use the facility as his personal fiefdom!
“If the allegations prove in the slightest to be true, his ongoing tenure as Board Chairman and ex-officio role as overseer in any capacity at Summerhaven is simply an untenable proposition in my view!
“Notwithstanding, I appreciate your timely response and hope that meaningful intervention will serve to expediently resolve all outstanding major concerns in the best interest of residents and staff alike!”
He was responding to an email sent by the Minister the day before, on May 14th. In that email Ms Atherden wrote: “We are working with the Board and getting agreement on changes which will address the residents and staff concerns and improve conditions.
“There is still more work to be done but I believe progress has been made. We are trying to address issues from a systemic point of view and I have reviewed your concerns as representing types of issues which will improve…”
The Minister’s response was prompted by a follow up email sent to her by Mr Blakeney, regarding what he termed “the outrageous ongoing saga at Summerhaven”.
Mr Blakeney wrote: “It shocks me that John Powell is still wielding influence…
“If the aspersions prove true, it is inexcusable that no effective intervention or meaningful independent investigation has not occurred, since I brought the litany of extremely concerning allegations of abuse to your attention!
“I would not be at all surprised if affected residents or their advocates go public in the wake of such alleged atrocious abuses are allowed to continue!”
Mr Blakeney also said one resident sent him a text message that said: “Apparently Ms Atherden is not going to do anything because she is arranging a ‘meet and greet’ for the residents.
That resident noted that since Mr Blakeney’s statement was published “not one self-thinking board member took it upon themselves to go to Summerhaven and ask one resident what’s going on there – not one…proving beyond a doubt that they do not have the best interest of the residents at heart”.
Mr Blakeney asked Ms Atherden: “How could the Ministry under your purview NOT feel compelled to get to the bottom of this matter with a genuinely proactive commitment to resolve any and all outstanding issues or concerns? In my humble opinion, it’s outrageous and simply unconscionable!”
He noted the fact that to date, the Minister has yet to confirm that “an active investigation was actively underway with a view to either corroborating the claims or refuting them”.
“If they truly had an independent investigation, then those culpable for the alleged abuses would be brought to justice,” he said.
And he reiterated that “it’s extremely concerning that the allegations of the bus driver’s personal challenges, and his driving record has not been refuted or addressed regarding the alleged abuses”.
“Without an independent investigation into all of these allegations, it would appear that the Government is colluding with Mr Powell in covering up the truth! I say this because all of the sources I found to be credible. They articulated the kinds of abuses that they experienced themselves,” said Mr Blakeney.
“Moreover, subsequent to the revelations being made public, there has apparently been a strategic exercise of intimidation and negative influences targeted against the vulnerable residents of Summerhaven.
“Some have been threatened that if they speak to the press they’ll be evicted, or Summerhaven would be at risk of being closed down. The other significant question is why the Department of Financial Assistance (FA) would provide benefits to Summerhaven in the form of monthly stipends to cover the disabled residents’ rent, food, transportation, and laundry.
“I take exception to FA changing policy, especially when it has a negative impact on the residents who are now faced with the unintended consequences, such as having no supplemental funds to live, or eat, or to do laundry. And then they are being charged on top of that to ride their bus.”
Said Mr Blakeney: “The math speaks volumes when you do the calculations. In the case of disabled residents at Summerhaven, the Board Chairman, who is also the Facility Manager, is being paid roughly $60,000 a month, 12-months-a-year, out of the public purse, to the tune of $720,000 per year!”
Meanwhile, the Minister, who was briefed on this report prior to publication, has agreed to an interview by Bermuda Real for part three of this report.
That interview will be conducted on a date and time to be confirmed this week and published in due course.
By Ceola Wilson