Doing the best you can is sometimes not good enoughWednesday, September 08, 2021
Perhaps one of the most disconcerting, if not disingenuous, statements that you can hear from a political leader is, “We have done the best we can,” or “We are doing the best we can.” This is also true of others in important leadership positions. But it is particularly true of political leaders who have to make important decisions that can drastically affect the lives of people.
In the fight against the novel coronavirus this phrase seems to have become very fashionable. Often it is used to cover up incompetence or to excuse outright failure in the struggle. If you listened to former President Donald Trump, for example, you would think that his Administration was on top of the problem; that, indeed, he was doing the best he could.
But, what was this best? Denying the science regarding the pandemic and refusing to robustly encourage people to wear masks? Having superspreader political campaigns where many attendees did not wear masks? Promoting bleach and hydroxychloroquine as being effective in the fight. Yes, he did lend his weight behind the fast production of vaccines but, while the scientists did their work, many people continued to die because of the relative nonchalance of the leadership of the country toward the virus.
One can be sure that Prime Minister Andrew Holness's Administration would claim that they, too, are doing the best they can in fighting the virus. His Administration did well when the coronavirus first landed on our shores. But, where are we today?
The Government has been leery of admitting that its relaxation of measures in July, against the best advice of members of the medical profession and civil society, was ill-timed and ill-advised. The prime minister felt under pressure to relax the measures, but he knew that the pernicious Delta variant was raging in other parts of the world and if it were not yet in Jamaica it would not be long before it arrived.
Nontheless, entertainment venues were opened to give people a chance to exhale. Many of these venues and their patrons did not observe the well-proven protocols for keeping the virus at bay.
If the prime minister wanted to do the best he could he would have resisted the voices of those who were clamouring for the relaxation, listened more to the scientists and medical professionals, and begun to prepare the nation for the onslaught of the Delta variant, which was already running like wildfire throughout the United States after having devastated India. Now we are in the fight of our lives – the hospitals are being overrun by the number of cases being admitted daily; many of our health personnel are at a breaking point, with some being mentally exhausted and at the point of burnout; and some of our outstanding professionals are dying from the virus.
Our only saviour right now is for people to get vaccinated. The anticipated flow of vaccines is now occurring, but there are problems with the logistics of their distribution and getting the vaccines in people's arms.
The Government has formed a national task force to run the effort as it has become clear that the ministry of health lacks the carrying capacity to do the roll-out effectively. But, why is this only being implemented now? If the Government knew that there would have been an influx of vaccines in August, and it wanted to do the best it could, why did it not empanel this task force from early to comprehensively address the problem before the vaccines arrived?
Now people are turning up for the vaccines and some are not getting it. Pharmacists who have already been trained in adminstering the jab are complaining that they have not been engaged to assist with getting the vaccine in people's arms. The matter seems to be languishing in legislative limbo. Doctors are also complaining that they have not been robustly engaged to help.
What is the problem – money, fatigue, or lethargy? You choose, dear reader, but it does not look good that, when we are combating a crisis such as this, useful soldiers, who could be deployed to help, have to be complaining that they are not being engaged. In fact, the administering of vaccines should become mandatory in the training of our health professionals. This is one thing I believe the COVID-19 crisis has taught us. There will be similar crises in the future and having a trained cohort of professionals helps us to be prepared.
Often, when political leaders say they have done the best they can in a given situation it is an attempt to excuse failure. Politicians are deathly afraid of admitting failure as much as water grass is afraid of Gramoxone or Roundup. Yet, it is in admitting mistakes and acknowledging where they have gone wrong that political leaders have the best chance to rectify a situation, regain trust, and inspire people to support them.
Will the People's National Party (PNP) admit that they have made a grievous error in calling on the minister of health to resign in light of his approach to the pandemic? The call has come from the general secretary of the party Dr Dayton Campbell. To the best of my knowledge, his president, Mark Golding, and other members of the top echelon of the party have not supported this call. One then wonders what is happening in Dr Campbell's cranial space.
I have criticised aspects of the Government's handling of the pandemic, but it is hare-brained to call for the replacement of the minster at this time. To do this is to invite a new minister to face a steep learning curve which the country cannot afford at this critical time. Furthermore, it is without merit. Yes, the minister and the Government have stumbled in important ways in managing the crisis, some of which I have highlighted above. But, I am willing to cut them some slack while pointing out obvious failures. We have never been here before. We are dealing with a virus that is new to the entire world and we are still finding our way through it.
If I am reading the mood of the people correctly, I believe most people are comfortable that it is the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and not the PNP that is currently in charge of this crisis. I know I will be called partisan for saying this, but the Earth will not shift from its orbit because of this. Many still believe that, while Holness has made mistakes, they are confident in his sincerity and desire to do right by them and keep them safe. This is far removed from their distrust of the PNP, whose 18 continuous years in office left a stain of corruption and mismanagement on the country. I am sure they will claim they did the best they could in leading the country, but I leave that to the historians to judge.
Meanwhile, each person has a responsibility for his or her own health. Are you doing the best you can to avoid getting sick from this virus and preventing transmission to others? This is more than a patriotic question, it is about our very survival as a nation. Every day we are shocked by the number of people who are getting sick and dying around us. No one should be more interested in your health than you are. Your friends and family members, out of love and concern for you, will urge, cajole, plead, and even curse you to take care of your health and get vaccinated but, ultimately, the responsibility is yours. And you owe it to those in your immediate social orbit of love to listen.
Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm and Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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