Sunday Brew — June 20, 2021
George Wright

Give scholarships to study nursing

It cannot be overstated how dire the situation is in respect of the shortage of medical personnel, especially nurses, in Jamaica's health care system.

That shortage, too, has been compounded by indifferent behaviour meted out regularly to people who turn up at public medical institutions to seek treatment for things that ail them.

There are true professional nurses out there. But there are some others who tend to be rude and inconsiderate when patients require their attention at crucial times.

In response to some of the challenges faced by the health sector, I had a most refreshing discussion with veteran medical practitioner Dr Winston Dawes, a man whom I have known for all of my adult years, coming from when he was president of the Jamaica Football Federation during the 1980s.

Sometimes I have to wonder if the minister of health, and other officials in his ministry listen to voices like Dr Dawes, who has served far and wide in public and private practice, and for many years heading up the May Pen Hospital in Clarendon as it senior medical officer.

For anytime we speak, Dr Dawes mentions so many suggestions that have been made over the years, to those who have policy direction, even operational management of health, which have been thrown into the scrap heap of Doomsland.

One of the things that Dr Dawes suggested to me in order to address the shortage of nurses is for the Government to offer scholarships to young women and men whose desire it is to pursue careers in nursing.

Many potential youth cannot afford the tuition costs to attend nursing school, so if we can train them for free, although nothing is truly free, then in little time, a pool of nursing talent would have been created. Of course, there must be regulations that govern scholarships, one of them should be that if any recruiter from overseas dives in to export talent, then that recruiter must reimburse the Government for the full cost of the nurse's training over the period. So there again, another business would have begun – training and selling talent. But that should not be the priority in Jamaica's case.

It would be good if more men could join the pool in order to break up the, in many cases, all-woman monopoly at some institutions. Let's face reality, too many women in one place does not work well. There is regular discord, influenced by personal issues, rather than work-related, that throws many of them off course. A male-female blend in a field that has grown accustomed to be rubber stamped as belonging to women – would be the ideal tonic.

Mind you, there is far less corruption associated with women working in institutions, so, from that perspective, we can be assured that something good can emerge from a strong woman presence.

Battling a choked health care system

It is always important to utilise talent strategically, and the further along we go as a country, it becomes clearer that Prime Minister Holness missed a golden chance to have as perfect a Cabinet, in this the most challenging time of Jamaica's life, as possible.

And the more I look at the health portfolio is the more convincing it becomes that the minister, Dr Chris Tufton, is being out manoeuvred by his Opposition counterpart, Dr Morais Guy. Don't get me wrong, Dr Tufton is a brilliant man, though in this case he is like a lamb to the slaughter, being often put on the spot to comment on, or debate deep technical health matters that leaves him wanting – a perfect example being last Tuesday's exchange in Parliament over the drug Ivermectin, which some members of the medical fraternity want to be introduced here on a broad scale and given the blessing by the health ministry to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While Dr Guy could, in the manner of a well-conditioned boxer in the ring, throw punches that would usually take out opponents, Dr Tufton has to be resorting to his corner…asking questions like 'how do I counteract this drug uppercut? If Dr Guy throws the left jab on COVID-19 what should I do'? Etc.

The situation is, for Dr Tufton to compete, he must have his technical people around him. If not, he would be exposed to foot-in-mouth disease. At a time like this it cannot be good. That's why the prime minister should have appointed a medical doctor to lead the charge – one who could not be knocked off his feet when the debate gets heated.

Would the PM have appointed a farmer with no legal knowledge or experience to become attorney general, or minister of justice?

On another note, Dr Tufton in recent days has insisted on digitising public medical records. Not a bad idea, but that should not be an area of priority right now.

Even in discussion with medical doctors recently, at length with one of them, private practitioner Dr Lincoln Wright in Port Maria, it was agreed that the priority ought to be training for people who work as managers in the public health system, like health management, health administration, health maintenance, as well as hospital management, hospital administration, and hospital maintenance,

From recent lessons, there must also be a keen focus now on building out the physical infrastructure in the hospital system, and put firmer management systems in place. After that, we can focus on digitisation.

PNP must review its candidates

No one can argue that the country would be better off with a strong, united Opposition in place, in order to address one-way Government traffic.

But in reality, what has been happening since late last year is an Opposition more opposing itself and not the Government.

How long the foolishness will go on is anybody's guess, but what I find strange is that, despite the naming of a junior shadow Cabinet, the PNP continues to put voices up front who have done themselves and the party little good over the last few years.

The party has to take a serious look at its candidates, because it is they who will decide who forms the next Government, no matter who the head of that party is.

As part of the new paradigm, the PNP needs to put aside candidates who have at least lost the last two general election contests. There are some who have lost more.

So, for example, in Kingston Central, a seat in which the party has never lost a contested election, that, surprisingly went to the JLP last September. Imani Duncan Price was defeated, adding to her loss in 2016 in St Andrew East Rural – two seats that the party had before. To me, she should take a break from elective politics, at least for the next election, and allow other candidates who did not get a chance to make themselves available.

The same must be said of Duncan Price's sister, Patricia Duncan Sutherland in Clarendon South Eastern, Dr Shane Alexis in St Mary South Eastern, Val Wint in St Ann South Western, and before that Manchester North Eastern, for example.

Leaving the best wine for last, the PNP has a man who has suffered five consecutive general election losses – never achieved in history, based upon the political records. That man, Patrick Roberts, is, incidentally, facing a court battle now. It would be startling if the party decides to use him again. But then, maybe he will go after the magnificent six, something, if allowed to happen, should be treated by the people of this country as the most blatant affront that could have been meted out to them.

George Wright's continued side show

The fuss in the House of Representatives over where George Wright should sit is a simple one. If he insists on not resigning in the best interest of the country, then he could use the steps outside of Gordon House to cool off, relax, and focus on what could have been, had he not recognised that after September 3, 2020 he was a public figure.

Wright just does not realise what is happening around him, and how his foolish actions could disrupt the functioning of the nation's Parliament. For there is talk now that the Opposition could boycott the House of Representatives, if he insists that he wants to carry on, and sit on their side.

It would be uncomfortable for the Opposition, as even while you are having discreet deliberations, you have to be on your guard that the enemy is within.

Reflecting on his comments in the Sunday Observer last week, I wonder what is so special about this man that he insists on holding his ground and continues to insult people's intelligence when he is questioned, specifically, about his role in that dreaded video, by not wanting to comment on it. Don't the people around him who are advising him realise that he is only making a concrete ass of himself when he continues to do that?

Dr Winston Dawes
Dr Chris Tufton
Dr Morais Guy
with HG HELPS Editor-at-Large

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