When the mob came after the budding doctor
Ray Fraser survives vigilante justice in St Elizabeth

This is the 41st in an awardwinning series of close encounters with death by Jamaicans, some of them in prominent positions of the society.

DR Ray Anthony Fraser has in recent years received several accolades for transforming health care at the Annotto Bay Hospital in St Mary, where he serves as senior medical officer of health.

One of his most cherished is the national honour, the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, for services to health, which he received on National Heroes Day, October 15, 2012.

But the showers of praise that have kept him soaked to the bone in his quest to improve the delivery of health care in his designated zones might not have fallen, had he not survived a scary experience as he prepared to venture into the field of medicine.

Born in West Kingston, Fraser had an exciting life as a youth. However, his mother Ivy Ducille was stretched to raise three boys, two of whom became doctors and one a dentist.

Due to the violent nature of the West Kingston/South St Andrew area, Ducille only kept them in the community during the time that they attended Jones Town Primary and Kingston College (KC), choosing to dispatch them to the cool Blue Mountain community of Central Manchester at holiday time.

Having completed KC and entering the University of the West Indies where he enrolled to pursue a degree in natural sciences, Fraser had to find ways to make extra dollars to help with his tuition during the 1970s.

So when Radio Jamaica (RJR) advertised for students, called “sample reporters”, to assist with its coverage of the volatile 1976 General Election, he applied and was drafted as part of a successful team of students.

“A group of us, including Michael Banbury, who is also a doctor, and Paul Johnson decided to work for RJR and we were placed in St Elizabeth and Manchester,” Fraser recalled.

“There was one vehicle assigned to us, and each of us had a specific polling station to go to. The returning officer would give us the result, we would call RJR and relay the information so that they could announce it,” said Fraser, now president of the KC Old Boys' Association.

Fraser, who would later win a scholarship to study medicine

in Socialist Cuba, would soon be caught up in the middle of a battle between supporters of the ruling People's National Party and the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

He was assigned to a polling station at Retrieve in South West St Elizabeth, but little did he know that the tension was so high between the factions.

“Unknown to us, some men had come to that polling station in the day and said that anyhow Mel Brown (PNP candidate) won the election, they would shoot up the place,” Fraser related.

“The car picked up some of the other students on the way and as we drove into the polling station where I would get the final results and pass them on to RJR, it was announced that Mel Brown had won over Derrick Sangster.

“Right away, as far as the people were concerned, we were the men who came to shoot up the place and they proceeded to try and lynch us.

“Stones rained down on the car, one of which hit Banbury in the head and he shouted out 'Jah, you a tek I now?

“All of us jumped out of the car and while the others raced off into the bushes to hide, I decided to stand up and face the crowd, trying to tell them that we were here reporting for RJR and did not come as gunmen,” Fraser disclosed.

Within seconds, the mob's appetite for blood grew larger. Angry words were hurled at him and the group moved to end his life. But an elderly woman and a young man had a sixth sense that something was amiss.

“The old woman jumped in the middle of the crowd and said, 'oonu wait, he could be one of oonu son, you know',” Fraser recalled.

The temporary reprieve got some support from the young man, who grabbed Fraser, pushed him under a barbed wire fence and raced off with him to the home of another old woman… mob in tow.

“That first old lady saved me when she bawled out,” Fraser said. “Then the youth pushed me under the fence and said come with me and we dashed off. I had to spend the night at the other old lady's house in hiding, because the other men came down there to kill me, but the old lady told them that I was not in the house.

“Things cooled down by next morning and when the police eventually came, I was safe. Some of the same people who had rushed after me apologised, saying that they thought we were gunmen,” Fraser said.

As for the other members of Fraser's team, including Banbury, they spent the night in the bushes until the coast was clear.

That incident, which the senior surgeon said still has a negative impact on his life, preceded a bout with gunmen five years later.

Fraser had returned to Jamaica on holiday from studies in Cuba when gunmen invaded his older brother's house at Ridge Way, Meadowbrook Estate in St Andrew.

His brother Wayne was in his final year of medical studies at the UWI. The hoodlums tied up the Fraser brothers and took articles, including a motor car.

“They ransacked the place, but it appeared that they did not want to harm us. It was quite scary and even now my brother does not talk about it,” said the founding director of Winchester Medical and Surgical Institute.

“While the men were there they kept saying to me 'tek it easy, Doc', so they knew us,” Fraser added.

Having saved hundreds of lives, performed thousands of surgeries from the early days at Mandeville General Hospital, through to Kingston Public Hospital and now Annotto Bay Hospital, Fraser was also jolted by the murder of his younger brother, Ricardo, a dentist, in February 2010, for which no one has yet been arrested.

Despite that emotional challenge, Fraser remains focused that his mission to improve lives must go on.

The Annotto Bay Hospital, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy, is in the spotlight to be mended. Already, the institution has come a far way from having one medical doctor serving thousands of patients in 1994, to 40 now.

“Deaconess Hospital in Indiana, USA, has been assisting us since 1989, and that is valued at over $200 million,” Fraser disclosed.

“We also forged an ongoing relationship with the California medical group over the last eight years where we do laparoscopy surgeries and they assist with training our staff, also valued at over $250 million.

“So despite all of my personal setbacks and the hardships encountered over time, the work goes on,” Fraser said.

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large ?helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

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