Published On: Thu, Sep 24th, 2020

Psychiatric patient dead in solitary confinement

CAY HILL — Nobody knows what happened that night. The next morning, August 25, 2020, Caulette Julien was found dead in the isolation cell of the Mental Health Foundation. She was 43 years old. The responsible physician, Dr. Kitty Pelswijk, was quarantined at home for a fortnight because of COVID-19. The tragedy took place under the watch of interim director Eileen Healy.

The former student of the MAC School and St. Maarten Academy was found lying on the floor of the isolation cell. How long she lay there in the small, bare space is not known. According to the BIG Ordinance, someone who is locked up in an isolation cell must be seen every hour by medical staff and at least once a day by the treating medical doctor. But St. Maarten did not take over the BIG Ordinance that applied to the Country of the Netherlands Antilles, and the Surinam born Eileen Healy (71), who has held sway at the Mental Health Foundation for many years, apparently does not work according to the internationally accepted quality standards that are designed to protect patients.

See related article: Medical recognition divisive issue at Mental Health Foundation

The isolation cell at the Mental Health Foundation in Cay Hill is no larger than 2.5 by 3 meters. There is a mattress on the floor. A small window lets in sunlight during the day. There is no ventilation unless the door is opened because the patient has to go to the toilet or is allowed to take a shower. This is done under the supervision of nurses and under the watchful eye of a guard. The rest of the time, the patient is in solitary confinement. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered through a hatch in the door.

Caulette Julien had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, which causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. Her sister, who does not live in St. Maarten, described Caulette as “intellectual, beautiful, talented, humble and kind-hearted”. It was Dr. Kitty Pelswijk who judged her patient to be a danger to herself and others and decided that she should be locked up.

According to BIG standards, blood must be taken from each patient upon admission to the institution for examination in the laboratory. The patient should also be physically examined to determine any underlying disease. At StMaartenNews.com, we understand from several sources that both blood tests and physical examinations are not performed routinely by all doctors during the intake and admission of patients by the Mental Health Foundation. 

Since the foundation switched to a new computer system, all data of patients, their medical files from before the month of March of this year disappeared. Data from psychiatric patients that have been known to the Mental Health Foundation for years can no longer be found on the computer.

Kitty Pelswijk is not a BIG-registered and internationally recognized doctor. The Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo, where she graduated as a psychiatrist in October 2017, is not recognized in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is contradicted by interim director Eileen Healy in a letter to the publisher of StMaartenNews.com. She refers to the decision of the governor of St Maarten late last year to swear in the new employee of the MHF as a psychiatrist. In December 2019, Healy already introduced Pelswijk as the next interim director of the Mental Health Foundation. The announcement has recently been made official by Dr. Felix Holiday, president to the board of the Mental Health Foundation. 

Caulette Julien had spent nearly three weeks in isolation at the Mental Health Foundation when she was found dead on the morning of August 25. At the time, her psychiatrist had been at home in quarantine for quite some time after her husband, a member of the St. Maarten Police Force, showed signs of illness that were thought to be COVID-19. Dr. Pelswijk failed to appoint another doctor to visit Caulette Julien on her behalf and to perform a daily medical examination.

Asked for an explanation of the cause of Julien’s death, Inspector General Dr. Earl Best of the Public Health Inspectorate responds: “This case is still under investigation and the Inspectorate can’t comment on it.”


Related articles:
MHF response to article StMaartenNews.com September 22, 2020
Medical recognition divisive issue at Mental Health Foundation
Mental Health Foundation in turmoil
Announcement New Interim Director Oct 1 2020
Interim Director responds to publication about MHF turmoil