Sunday Brew — June 13, 2021Sunday, June 13, 2021
with HG HELPS
That messy Spanish Town Hospital affair
WHAT happened to Ms Shanique Armstrong at the Spanish Town Hospital recently, again highlights the many struggles that bleeds Jamaica's public health-care system.
And, the first thing you hear from the unstable mouths of those at the South-East Regional Health Authority is that the rules were followed. Oh yes, the rules were followed and yet a mother was left in distress after the death of her baby.
I am one who believes everything that Ms Armstrong first told the Sunday Observer last week. Her story reflects the treatment that is too often meted out to mothers in waiting, some of whom barely survive the ordeal and manage to care for their babies.
It has been said before, but maybe needs repeating: There are too many hooligans posing as health-care workers in the public system. No one has to tell me how certain health-care workers behave.
I have seen them in action at Kingston Public Hospital, Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Spanish Town Hospital, May Pen Hospital, Mandeville General Hospital, Cornwall Regional Hospital, and St Ann's Bay Hospital in particular.
There are other horrific tales told of more vicious conduct in those and other institutions of health care.
Sadly, most of the cases involve the behaviour of nurses, and happily, not many doctors assigned to these institutions.
How much longer will the Ministry of Health allow people who are employed by the State, and paid by ordinary citizens, to continue to keep the water muddy?
Oh yes, medical personnel are not paid what they are truly worth, but that should not be an excuse to treat people as if they are aliens. Go to any private medical institution in Jamaica and you will get the kind of treatment that is normally associated with royalty.
Why then is there this disparity in conduct between private and public care?
Jamaica has struggled too much with workers who fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health, playing the ass.
If they want to take up jobs overseas, where, incidentally, they could never treat any patient the way they handle those here, then let them go.
But this game has got to stop.
It's either these workers treat patients like humans, or they should be forced out of the system like animals.
Sibblies needs to put his house in order
It is hard to fathom what was going through the mind of Dwight Sibblies, the elected representative for Clarendon Northern, whose story, highlighted in last Sunday's Observer, saw him having two jobs with Government links.
My well-informed, if not impeccable, source told me that the Ministry of Education, which sought the intervention of the attorney general's (AG's) office on the matter, was not in agreement with Sibblies maintaining his contract with the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) and serving as that institution's chief internal auditor. But, then, later we were told that the AG saw that there was no conflict involved. Should anyone be surprised... coming from Mrs Malahoo Forte's office?
Now, we are being told by UTech that a secondment was arranged for Sibblies within the last few weeks, so he would not be physically at the university in his regular job as chief internal auditor, but as a tutor in its law faculty. How convenient again! I suggest that UTech is not giving a true picture of the real story.
I called the university on Tuesday, June 2, and asked to be transferred to Mr Sibblies' office. The call went through, and someone answered and said that he was “not in office at the moment”. Now, how do you work that out? If someone is on secondment, wouldn't the answer be more like, “He no longer occupies this office.”
Sibblies should have decided before he entered elective politics that should he become successful, he would have to divorce himself from the job at UTech, and devote himself to the people who elected him. It is a full-time job and is hugely demanding. Plus, there has to be a direct conflict in having the chief internal auditor at one of Jamaica's leading universities doubling as a member of the Jamaican Parliament. It is one of these pungent smelling gases that you should not want to be close to.
Can someone answer this question: Has Sibblies been getting paid for his UTech job and as Member of Parliament (MP) since last October?
There is nothing wrong with MPs who have their own businesses still keeping an eye on the operation of those entities, because that was what was paying them before, and while they will not be involved in the daily grind, they cannot be asked to just leave them to be managed by others without keeping an eye on the books.
Many were financially successful and comfortable before they ventured into elective politics. But they were never contracted to, or employed by arms of Government. Sibblies is even part of a law firm, and based upon how things have shaped, he would be within his rights to practise law as an MP.
I am aware that the rules get even tighter if individuals join the Cabinet.
Sibblies should get his house in order. He cannot have things his own way. It must be either politics, auditing, or law, and this foolishness about him being on secondment is just that...utter stupidity.
Does anyone remember when GraceKennedy's Don Wehby was seconded from that organisation and appointed as Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance? ...the noise that former Finance Minister Dr Omar Davies made about it, and what followed after that?
What is so special about Sibblies that he has to be offered a secondment, and what are the terms of that secondment?
Do not count on the answer coming quicker than George Wright's emergence and disappearance from the House recently.
A positive move, Dr Clarke
Earlier, it was a programme designed to offer a financial fillip to people over age 60 whose earnings were less than $1.5 million per annum.
Now, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke has done the right thing by putting in place the Conditional Cash Transfer for the Vaccinated sub-programme to encourage those 60 and older, regardless of what they earn, to get vaccinated. This is a sensible move, for the people most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 are those in their senior years, based upon the number of deaths that have occurred globally.
There is a level of stubbornness among people in that age category too, old-fashioned if you may, and they need people to drive and convince them that getting vaccinated is the way to go. And, too, some critics have been looking at the finance minister's gesture as tokenism, but I do not share that view.
How times have changed though. For in years gone by it was mandatory for people to be vaccinated. In fact, it still is. Take school for example, if a pupil/student does not have his shots, he will not be permitted to attend school. Why then have some of us treated the matter of the COVID-19 vaccine as a sort of slow poison scheme?
Putting an extra $10,000 in your pocket is not the real issue. That amount of money cannot buy much these days, and I don't think that Dr Clarke is trying to use the sub-programme as a popularity catch game. I believe that he genuinely wants people who are most vulnerable to get covered, and so, putting up a 'small change' to make the process easier cannot hurt. In any case, the economy would be better off if the population is fully vaccinated.
Supreme Ventures joins the act too
And, on the subject of vaccines, I see where Supreme Ventures has stepped forward with an enticement to get more people to muster up to the feared needle, all for their own safety and that of the nation.
It is highly commendable that Jamaica's and the Caribbean's leading gaming company has now introduced this unique project. Now, even cowards like me can get with the challenge.
Called 'Vax and Win' lottery promotion, people will be given the chance to win thousands of dollars in cash and prizes each week, for those aged 18 and older who have been vaccinated.
Details are being circulated and I am sure that this is something that people will follow like sweet cakes.
My friend and head of Prime Sports, Xesus Johnston, has underscored the need for Jamaicans to pull together to ensure that Jamaica rebounds, similar to the message being sent by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
Xesus, in my estimation, one of Jamaica's leading lights as far as business management goes, dug deep in preaching how critical the vaccination programme is in paving the way for the future, and reiterated his company's commitment to do what it could to ensure that as many people who live in this country get the requisite shots.
I have not even had my first jab yet, but I have no doubt that getting vaccinated, no matter how afraid of the needle you are, is the only option. At least I tried to get the vaccine upon a visit to a 'blitz' held at the National Arena one Saturday, only to be told by organisers that they were oversubscribed and some people could not be attended to.
Until the vaccine is available to me, and others, the mission must be to continue to live safe... wearing masks, social distancing, increasing intake of vitamins and minerals, etc.
Now, another incentive has been added by Supreme Ventures, in addition to what the Ministry of Finance is doing. If this latest addition does not push people to embrace the vaccine, and not complain about a catch here, there, and everywhere, then it would not be for want of trying by the gaming company and other stakeholders who are anxious to see the grand Jamaica revival.
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