Victoria Jubilee probe a good start

Thursday, August 07, 2014

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WE are indeed heartened to know that Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson has ordered an investigation into allegations of misconduct by members of staff at the troubled Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) -- the largest maternity institution in the English-speaking Caribbean.

For, apart from this week's Sunday Observer article, in which three mothers related tales of horror at the hospital, we have been hearing far too many spine-chilling stories from that, as well as other public medical institutions for the situation not to warrant that kind of attention from senior policymakers.

The tales for several years now have been many and varied, and sometimes we are forced to ask -- when those in the heart of the institution deny claims of misconduct by their staff -- if so many people who have related their experiences could be wrong or simply mischievous.

The truth is that the VJH, like other institutions at which criticisms have been levelled -- including the adjoining Kingston Public Hospital, Spanish Town, May Pen, Mandeville, Savanna-la-Mar, and Cornwall Regional hospitals -- have among their numbers workers who ought not to be treating sick people.

These workers -- who are in the minority we hope -- are hooligans in uniform, who either do not understand the basics of patient care, or who do, but care not what happens to their fellow humans in need.

The causes of such treatment, we believe, are varied, but among them must be the fact that there is virtually no charge to patients using public health institutions and, in many instances, the fact too that the majority of people who use these hospitals are poor.

They cannot afford the high cost of private care and so are abused by medical workers who believe that they have the authority to do whatever they please with people who are at their mercy.

We hope that the professional doctors and nurses in particular who serve the public will have dialogue with their colleagues who often step out of line, disrespect patients and put their lives at risk. They know what is happening and do not need to pretend any further that atrocities do not exist.

Dr Ferguson, too, as the man in charge of the health sector, must not be just satisfied with a mere investigation into complaints by three women at the VJH. The problem is broader than that. He should move now to address the general public with a view to assuring them that if they think that they were ill-treated by personnel at any hospital, they should have no fear in reporting such matters to him personally.

For we hold that such complaints must be treated as high priority. The public must be assured that at least someone is in their corner. Dr Ferguson should also be aware that if he drops the ball on this one it could prove detrimental to his political future.

As for those unprofessional staff at the VJH and some of the other public institutions, we urge them to take one good look at themselves in the mirror and ask some pertinent questions. At the end of that self-examination, we hope that they will either come to the realisation that it is either time to pack their bags and go, or repent and begin to serve the public with the professionalism that they deserve.

Nothing short of that will do.




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