NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands yesterday defended the transfer of Assistant Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander to his ministry, insisting there are significant security risks at health facilities.
Fernander, assistant commissioner of crime management, was among seven other high-ranking cops directed to take their weeks of accumulated vacation time last March.
Upon returning to work yesterday, he received a directive from Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson that he has been deployed to the Ministry of Health on special assignment to assist with overall security concerns.
In his letter, dated January 22, the police commissioner underscored Fernander will play an integral part of the executive team at the Health ministry.
Yesterday, Sands said: “There are significant security risks and we have had some significant security breaches
historically, where you have had a nurse shot and killed, you’ve had a police officer shot at
Princess Margaret Hospital.
“Now that was a number of years ago, but you have had doctors held up on their way into the hospital or out of the hospital. You’ve had cars broken into.
Sands continued: “We run a 24/7, 365 operation and a lot of people who work on the institution are female.
“So to have somebody with gravitas in security, heading a holistic review and revamping of security to maximize safety and security, makes sense.”
Asked what Fernander’s role will be, Sands said: “He will ultimately be somebody who has the strategic role of ensuring that our security is optimized and that patients, visitors and staff and their property, is safe.”
“Now does it have to be Clayton Fernander,” he continued.
“It doesn’t have to be Clayton Fernander. But certainly to have somebody with the gravitas of a Clayton Fernander, that would be a pretty amazing thing.”
Pressed on whether the transfer would make him head of security, the health minister noted that Fernander would be “heading the security of the PHA”.
“To say he is head of security implies a title and a job description and I’m not trying to trivialize or minimize head of security, but I think that that role, the one envisioned is one of senior management,” Sands said.
“…When you look at the historic complaints of staff, junior doctors, senior doctors, nurses, about security concerns, the question is are you going to take it seriously.
“And I think having somebody, whether it’s this particular individual or not, who is arguably one of the senior security people in the country, how can you criticize that.”
Sands added this particular matter is personal to him, given that he has had a family member killed in PMH l in the line of duty.
In 2001, Nurse Joan Lunn, 65, was killed when two gunmen burst into a surgical ward at PMH and fired several shots – one bullet hitting Lunn in the heart killing her instantly.
“This is not an insignificant thing.,” Sands said. “You may say this happened a long time ago, [but] people have not forgotten that.”
Fernander’s deployment will take effect next Monday and go on for an initial period of 12 months, where his current benefits, entitlements and pension will remain the same.
Fernander has retained the legal services of attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, who told Eyewitness News Online his client will get clarification on the move before taking any action.
ACP Kendal Strachan has initiated legal action after he was transferred to the Ministry of Social Services upon his return from forced leave last month.