Surely, we can do more to protect senior citizens
Furniture, appliances, wheelchairs and other items that were removed from the house on Longford Avenue in West Bay, Portmore, St Catherine, are seen on the sidewalk on Saturday, March 11. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

We are still perplexed by the deafening silence of the relevant government ministries and agencies to that shameful and callous eviction of elderly citizens of Jamaica two Saturdays ago in Portmore, St Catherine.

For those who may still be unaware of this incident, 20 elderly people, some disabled, were evicted from the privately-run Pleasant Care Nursing Home in West Bay, Portmore, St Catherine, by bailiffs. They were left on the sidewalk, exposed to the elements, alongside possessions and furnishings.

Among them was a blind man whose two legs are amputated.

Thankfully, good neighbours intervened after the evictors had left. They took the victims back into their shelter through a back door which had been left open. Some of the victims were fortunate enough to have been picked up by relatives.

The woman who runs the nursing home had told us that the owner of the house had presented a court order for her to leave the premises last year. However, she said she wasn't able to find a new house and as such did not relocate the seniors.

Our lead story today reports that last Tuesday the nursing home operator confirmed that the five remaining seniors had been moved from the location to a temporary facility.

We were told that the Ministry of Health's Standards and Regulations Unit was engaged to undertake a field visit to the temporary home. We are unable to say if that has been done. However, as we have pointed out, the country has not heard a word from either the Ministry of Labour and Social Security or the Ministry of Local Government on this matter.

Last Wednesday, in this space, we had argued that, going forward, action — legislatively if needs be — should be taken to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

That position, we see, is shared by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC).

Mr Francis Jones, population affairs officer at UNECLAC, points out in today's edition that with the population ageing, there is a growing demand for private nursing care. As such, he correctly argues, "measures need to be put in place to protect residents in case of the failure, or deficiencies, in any particular home".

No decent human being will disagree with Mr Jones that older people in long-term residential care have a right to decent housing, health care, and the right to be free from cruel and degrading treatment.

Mrs Jean Lowrie-Chin, chair of Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), has revealed that over the past five years CCRP has been writing and meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, appealing to them to introduce an Elderly Care and Protection Act that can put teeth into policies designed to protect senior citizens.

We support that call, especially given Jamaica's membership in the United Nations which, in December 1991 adopted the principle that senior citizens should be able to live in environs that are safe and adaptable to personal preferences and changing capacities.

It's the least the country can do for its senior citizens, many of whom have contributed to national development.

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