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Get the police involved

Medical consultants' boss urges members who are sexually harassed

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 18, 2019

President of the Association of Government Medical Consultants (AGMC) Dr Konrad Lawson is urging medical practitioners whom his organisation represents to abide by the protocols when dealing with sexual harassment matters.

The urging comes after medical personnel complained to the Jamaica Observer in articles last week that they had undergone acts of sexual harassment over the years, without action being taken by those in officialdom against perpetrators.

“In terms of something as serious as that (sexual harassment) there is a protocol that is to be followed through the medical disciplinary proceedings,” Dr Lawson told the Sunday Observer.

He is even suggesting that such matters ought to be treated as criminal ones — something that would attract the interest of the police.

“This is not just a matter of a disciplinary thing within the hospital setting confined to having a disciplinary arrangement in an institution. What they are complaining about could constitute something that can be reported and ought to be reported to the police. There is a legal protocol for doing that. It hasn't been reported, to my knowledge, to their seniors in the hospital, neither has it been reported to the police. So it becomes a matter of hearsay and accusations without making a report for it to be investigated. That is not something that ought to be done.

“If it is that, I read, and I also read between the lines, that one person said they feared that their professional future might be impacted because these are the people who would be in charge of them, who would have to write them up etc, etc. But the fact is, if you make a report to the senior medical officer, presuming of course that it is not against the senior medical officer, in which case you report to the regional officers — regional technical director, or the regional director for the region — then that will be investigated and anything that is done that seems to be untoward, that your senior might become vindictive that you reported it, then that will be taken out of their hands and somebody else would be given the responsibility of doing what it is that they would require to be done in a supervisory capacity, for you.

“But if it is that you have stayed there and suffered in silence and nobody else knows, then that person is going to hold the big stick over your head. The right thing to do is follow the protocol, have it investigated and take it out of the realm of hearsay. Nothing, to my knowledge, has been reported to the association about anything like that. Other things have been reported and we have done our investigations and we have participated. The process is there and the process works.

“There are enough checks and balances. The way the system is set up, no one person has that much influence over what happens to you throughout your entire progress through professional development, and it's deliberately done that way. You spend three months with a consultant here, you move, spend another three months when you are in a programme for post-graduate training. When you get to a certain level, the most you are going to spend is six months, thereafter you move on. It is the amalgamation of all of these people that is going to make the difference for you. No one person is going to have that detrimental an effect. It is egregious enough if that is something that is happening, you don't have to watch the international news now to know that literally all that you have to do is say the word and every stop is pulled out. It is very topical now, even here in Jamaica and it is something that is looked into and investigated, but it has to be done properly, according to the protocol,” Dr Lawson told the Jamaica Observer Press Club.

Dr Lawson, a highly respected orthopedic surgeon at the English-speaking Caribbean's largest health facility — the Kingston Public Hospital — is not one to rule out the possibility of mischief in the whole matter of sexual harassment, but suggested that it would have been a brave move by those making such claims to put them forward.

He is also not one who believes in a system whereby accused persons take a long time — years — to report acts of sexual harassment.

“I wouldn't say that it can't be mischief. But I wouldn't like to think that anybody is being mischievous because it is a very serious allegation to bring forward.

“It might be something that is done or said that one person might consider inappropriate, and the other would say it's just colleagues being in a stressful work situation, but I wouldn't want to think it's either mischief or something deliberate being done on the other side.”