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Make children priority in 2018

Monday, January 01, 2018

Deputy dean in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies Professor Trevor McCartney wants Type B trauma units in public hospitals to deal with the overwhelming flow of trauma cases predominantly caused by violence, road accidents, etc.

He says trauma units would free up intensive care units to deal with other pressing health issues such as cancers, tumours, and vascular diseases.

Prof McCartney's call came against the background of the Violence Prevention Alliance 2014 Cost of Care Study, which shows Government spent $12.6 billion that year to deliver health care to people admitted to hospitals across the country.

Injuries were sustained from 25,000 violence-related cases, 13,000 road crashes, and 500 cases of attempted suicide.

Available evidence suggests the situation is not improving. It is getting much worse.

Prof McCartney spoke of the stress and strain on the public health system, not least health care staff.

Type B trauma units would ease pressure and allow those with ongoing medical conditions to have easier access to treatment, he said.

Predictably, the call was also made for prevention.

Says Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, “We have to realign our resources and efforts to try and get Jamaicans to lead lives, whether on the road or in communication with your neighbours [in the event] of a dispute, in a manner that minimises [violence] and the need to treat injuries, and having to bear the associated cost.”

In this newspaper's view, both approaches are crucial. Whenever the resources are available, trauma units should be established. But also, a way has to be found to drastically minimise crime and violence, especially.

What is the society to do? Obviously, increased police presence in communities and social interventions are all important. But as this newspaper has repeatedly argued over many years, there has to be concerted efforts by stakeholders at every level — from the prime minister down; across political party lines; and with the full support of the Church, business organisations, State agencies, so-called civil society, etc — to mobilise communities to curb crime and violence.

As part of this strategy there must be a focused approach to how children are brought up. A child brought up badly today could haunt the society tomorrow. Jamaicans don't need to study rocket science to know that.

Too many of our children are falling through the cracks, often because their parents — some children themselves — are incapable, socially and economically.

Many of those children will do badly in school. Those are often the ones with the poorest grades in the Grade Six Achievement Test high school entrance exams. Those who do well get support from churches, community groups, political representatives, businesses, and/or past student associations. They are also placed in the 'best' high schools.

Those children with the poorest grades are largely shunned. Instead of getting specialist help, they are placed in under-resourced high schools many miles away, requiring large sums for bus and taxi fares.

Since they are considered 'dunce', and elders find themselves unable to even buy food for the home, many of those children drop out of school. Confused, angry, resentful, easily manipulated by evildoers, many of those badly brought-up children become a scourge.

Also, they too will start having children while still children themselves. And the cycle continues.

In 2018, Jamaica needs to take a hard, critical look at how it treats its children.