Friday, February 27, 2009

Dr Giraldi Home allegations... When Will It All End?

Earlier this month I posted about the serious concerns raised in Spanish TV's Antena 3 programme 'Espejo Publico' which featured Gibraltar's home for the disabled, the Dr Giraldi Home, calling the home, rather alarmingly, 'Gibraltar's House Of Horrors'.

The title of the programme is, no doubt, typical of the worst kind of gutter journalism inherent on Spanish TV (especially when it concerns Gibraltar)!

Having said that, the fact remains that the programme highlighted some serious allegations... that to my mind, really need to be addressed properly.

Following the airing of the programme, the Gibraltar media was full of the usual slanging match, in a dialogue descending to calling each other liars, giving no credit to either side, neither the Government defending the indefensible (in not having instituted a proper independent inquiry on the issue) nor the Opposition, who made a very bad job of using the serious concerns, to score points off their counterparts, as per usual!

In a follow up post, I said that issue was not about a TV programme... the issue is about trust and confidence in the Social Services Agency... and the proper care offered in the Dr Giraldi Home... and the urgent need for an independent inquiry. This is still the case today... and nothing has moved on!

Last week, the Gibraltar Local Disability Movement made public a series of Witness Statements regarding the allegations of abuse at the Dr Giraldi Home. These statements were made by witnesses in support of Joanna Hernandez, the manager of the home at the time these allegations were first aired, at her Disciplinary Hearing which resulted in her dismissal. An industrial tribunal against her dismissal collapsed when the Government, having squandered tens of thousands of pounds of Gibraltar taxpayers' money in apparent attempts to silence these allegations, were unable to provide any further evidence against her to substantiate her dismissal.

In April 2008, following the tribunal, the Social Services Agency, in a Government statement said the Agency "again calls for anyone who alleges wrongdoing to report it to the management of the Agency, to the RGP or to the Government". The statement added that "a constant campaign of innuendo without reporting allegations to the police, is totally unfair on the staff of the Agency who are workers delivering a valuable public service".

Quite so... and here is the nub of this ongoing sore in the side of Gibraltar's disability community. Seems to me the trouble is when the allegations have been brought to the attention of the authorities, even made public, they have still not been properly cleared up, to the satisfaction of all concerned.

Once again today, the Gibraltar Local Disability Movement are asking... "when will it all end?".

They quote the TGWU spokesman on Health and Equality, Sukh Khaira, who earlier this week said:

"Unfortunately over the last few weeks we and the silent majority have observed certain elements intensifying their efforts to divide public opinion to the point where this tide of slander and innuendo can only sow doubt and disunity."

How much "doubt and disunity" does one need, before the authorities act once and for all? The Gibraltar Local Disability Movement, understandably, note that "having two employees speaking on behalf of the work force with strongly stated sentiments that the former manger conducted a witch-hunt, can only sow doubt and disunity". Their statement today adds:

"We may be able to fix any disunity but we are sure that any doubt to the allegations can only be fixed by holding a position that a public inquiry to the allegations of Dr Giraldi Home is undertaken, and that an independent assessor as required by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities be implemented."

The GLDM's feelings are that "Gibraltar is in a state of uncertainty and mistrust, and is full of uncertainties if anything has happened at Dr Giraldi Home".

"If we have a situation of uncertainties no percentage must be taken on who is right or wrong. Our concerns must be one hundred percent with no doubt that all is well, and not for public opinion but for all who lives at Dr Giraldi Home and families and those that work at the home."

The GLDM will be organising a collection of signatures this Saturday 28th February, in a petition calling on the Governor, Sir Robert Fulton, to set up a full enquiry.

It's a crying shame that this issue has been allowed, by the Government, to fester in this shameful way. It really is about time they stopped squabbling with 'The Walrus' and got their act together and sorted this out... by implementing an independent and credible inquiry into these allegations!

If the Government was embarassed and annoyed by the airing of the 'Gibraltar's House Of Horrors' Spanish TV programme, just think how much more embarassed... and 'put out' they're going to be, if and when the burly Marine has to have a word in their 'shell like' ear... to get this sorted... once and for all!!