The public is no closer to knowing what led to the death of 27-year-old Lateefa George than it was when the initial story broke almost three weeks ago.
A press conference which media personnel thought was meant to bring clarity on the woman’s sudden passing, turned out to be the Minister of Health’s choice of platform to defend comments of a cover up. On Tuesday morning, Sir Molwyn Joseph told reporters repeatedly that he had called the conference to respond to comments that he himself didn’t hear, accusing him of attempting to cover up the woman’s death.
“The suggestion that I would be involved in any cover-up is deeply offensive,” he remarked, adding that “the individuals who are peddling this false information need to stop and be accountable.”
In fact, Sir Molywn claimed to know the deceased’s family and was “hurt” by her death.
George died while in the care of the Clarevue Psychiatric Hospital where she was receiving treatment for a bout of bipolar depression.
Since George reportedly died suddenly, the case, he said, has qualified and is being investigated as a case of unnatural death and is now in the hands of a coroner.
He claimed not to have any information on the specifics of the case as it was not in his legal purview, saying “it doesn’t seem to be an appropriate thing”.
“There is going to be a jury hearing on this matter. This is like a whole judicial exercise … you should not expect the ministry to investigate which would essentially be investigating itself,” he explained further.
The minister was also asked about a leaked report that made reference to George’s treatment and the poor state of Clarevue. But even after acknowledging receipt of the document on Monday night, he claimed to have not yet read it.
“What is of concern to me is that you have received a report that was issued to my P.S [permanent secretary] last evening and she has not had an opportunity to verify the veracity of what is written,” he replied.
He also said he was not aware of a June 2023 report that spoke to safety and security concerns at the facility. “I don’t recall seeing any petition,” the minister said.
What he did do during the conference however, was to make several references to the intellectual capacities of the reporters asking the questions, telling a reporter in one instance that she had “a deficit in the understanding of the whole issue”.
The press conference ended prematurely with one question from a reporter left unanswered.