If you happen to be one of the few who still don’t acknowledge the role social media play in today’s world, you are one of the lucky citizens of this nation who did not look on helplessly as yet another one of us was treated with the official contempt and disdain to which we have all now become accustomed.
This time, the victim was Christopher Phillip, an 80-year-old man or, as the Minister of Health (MoH) would have it, a 62-year-old citizen of this land, who, abandoned to his own devices within the compound of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, indeed, in the immediate vicinity of the Hospital’s Accident and the Emergency Department, “died like a dog.”
Although there is not very much that can be considered shocking in this land of ours anymore, the video footage shocked a few, offended many and sparked widespread outrage.
I suppose that, in his own way, the deceased elderly gentleman would have worked hard and contributed to the building of this nation. But the Health Minister didn’t think it necessary to ascertain whether this was so. In fact, he seemed to have made little effort to find out what were the facts of the matter.
The Ministry hastened to express condolences to Phillip’s family. But of what comfort was that when, not surprisingly, the blame was quickly placed squarely on the shoulders of the deceased? Phillip, some say, was unable to walk; Phillip, said the Ministry, “discharged himself.”
Mr Minister gave the impression that being “only 62” makes Mr Phillip’s death much more acceptable than if he was indeed 80. Thanks, Terry, for clearing that up.
Those in authority, many with lofty, important-sounding titles, launched the now ritual calls for a “comprehensive investigation” into what I commonly refer to as the “Hell Care System.”
But ordinary, tax-paying citizens like me are already up to here with these calls for probes and investigations and commissions of inquiry; we have grown weary of these probes and investigations and commissions of inquiry which never accomplish anything and serve only to further fatten a pack of fat-cat lawyers who make careers out of filing briefs on behalf of the State.
A colleague of mine calculates, using allocation figures from the 2017 National Budget, that the health care system spends around $17M a day. What, this citizen asks, do we have to show for it?
What we don’t have to show for it, citizens who use the system know only too well, is adequate quantities of medication, sheets, toilet tissue, doctors, ambulances, etc.
Not to mention machinery, such as dialysis machines, that is in proper working order.
To whom do we turn when things go wrong, when absolutely nothing seems to be working as it should? How do we explain what appears to be unparalleled levels of colossal incompetence? It is difficult to accept that the existing levels of massive incompetence could ever be achieved without systemic co-ordination,
Is it surprising, therefore, that some citizens offer the theory that this nation is “blighted”?
Sourcing foreign currency even in the modest quantities required for a brief vacation has never been as stressful. Booking a secure place on the sea bridge to Tobago and being confident about your arrival time is, frighteningly, now a lottery.
The lack of confidence in the Judiciary is terrifying to say the least. Despite massive rainfall in the past couple weeks, many taps remain dry as the WASA leadership remains blissfully unaware of the organisation’s primary function, which is delivering on successive administrations’ promise of “Water for all.” They seem to think that that has been supplanted by their newly assigned function of creating swimming pools and craters on the nations’ roadways.
And, of course, there is the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), far and away my favourite organization.
The police were in the news yet again recently in a way that caught my attention. The report was about two men charged with murder in 2006. One of the officers involved indicated that, in 2006, “he submitted DNA samples, including blood and hair samples and a cigarette butt, to the Forensics Science Complex.” When he checked for the report, he was told that the “tests were not yet done.”
Here’s the clincher: he checked for the report on 1 June, 2017! Full 11 years after he submitted the samples!
But don’t be surprised if tomorrow, Prime Minister Keith Rowley tells the nation that 11 years for a DNA test to be completed is “unacceptable.”
The knowledge that a DNA test has still not been completed after more than a decade is no less painful than watching Mr Phillip writhing in agony on the POSGH’s lawn. But is there a connection between the two situations?
There is, a painfully obvious one; it has to do with our absent work ethic. While it is easy to blame governments past and present, “the government” doesn’t work in the hospital wards or on the ports. Nor does it dig up the roads or any place else for that matter in search of water.
Let us be very clear about the function of government; I understand it very well, perhaps better than the Prime Minister, who told the nation not so long ago that “the government is not in the business of building schools.” That some fly-by-night lawyer could later parrot those lines as he attempted to blame the Opposition for bonfires that blocked the roads in Morvant clearly demonstrates his ignorance and underlines just how out of touch he and his Cabinet colleagues really are.
My fellow citizens, it is high time we reject as merely “unacceptable” an 11-year wait for a simple DNA test result. Because for as long as no one is held accountable, for as long as we continue to blame the victims, we shall continue to see our citizens dying like dogs across the length and breadth of this once blessed now blighted country.
Yesterday it was Christopher Phillips; which one of us it will be tomorrow is anyone’s guess.