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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in a Jan. 10, 2024 photo.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in a Jan. 10, 2024 photo.

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is again making efforts to recruit a psychiatrist, weeks after another High Court judge noted the impact of the absence of a  forensic psychiatric facility in the country

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on WE FM, on Sunday, said psychiatry is an area of weakness in the health care system in the country. 

“We recruit psychiatrists, and we lose them. We recruited one and she stayed with us for about two months and then got a job at one of the medical schools here,” the prime minister said.

iWitness News was reliably informed that that psychiatrist, when confronted with the workload, described it as “crazy” before quitting the job.

Gonsalves said:

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“Of course, I could have said, ‘I’m not giving you a work permit to work at the medical school. If you want to leave the country, leave the country.’ 

“But I didn’t do that. And that would not have been reasonable. At least we’ll have her where we can consult with her.”

He described the psychiatrist as “a wonderful lady”, adding that she took “a better opportunity” to teach at the medical school. 

I’ve been advised she does little consultations … and help and guidance and the like.”

He said the government is seeking to recruit a psychiatrist.

“But it’s difficult to get psychiatrists. I’ve concluded that we have to get a psychiatrist or two on special contract and we just have to pay them more than what is in the budget line,” he said.

He said the absence of a psychiatrist affects psychiatric services within the health care system as well as criminal justice system. 

Gonsalves, a lawyer and minister of national security and legal affairs, said a psychiatric evaluation is important if a murder accused mounts a defence of insanity. 

“You have to get the report as to  the state of a person’s mental health. You need a particular psychiatric evaluation as part of that whole process,” Gonsalves said. 

The prime minister said his government is exploring the use of telemedicine in this regard.

“There is a lawyer who came to me about this because there is a Vincentian who has a group of psychiatrists who would be available and he himself is a psychiatrist, and would be willing to do some of that. So there’s an exploration of that.”

The prime minister further stated that Cuba has very good psychiatrists.

But, the language issue would be a more difficult one in the field of psychiatry, I suspect. I’m talking Spanish to English,” Gonsalves stated. 

On March 25, High Court judge Justice Richard Floyd noted that mentally ill prisoners on remand are held in an open cell at His Majesty’s Prison in Kingstown, with beds for only half of them.

“Many of them are awaiting psychiatric evaluations before their cases can proceed. However, with no psychiatrist capable of conducting such examinations and producing such reports currently in residence in this jurisdiction, they are left to languish,” the judge said.