As I sat down to write this week’s BU contribution on a pressing financial economic matter, I came across the break out of serious antibiotic-resistant bacteria problems at our only hospital. Those of us familiar with the various infections that plague British hospitals would not be surprised that Klebsiella bacteria has now arrived at the QEH. I must admit, it did not come as a shock to me, since a friend and I have only recently been discussing the rat-infested, rubbish-strewn, health and safety hazard that is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. But it was the compulsive, arrogant, obstinate greed of the doctors behind their objections to alternative medicine that tipped me over in to widening the debate on the future of the health service and long-term care. It is not a concern about patient care, nor about the general welfare of ordinary Barbadians, but rather a determine attempt to co-opt the attorney general in their little game of protecting their money-making interests. To put it in simple terms, we are in a deep cesspit of our own making, typified by the abandoning of the elderly, so-called granny dumping, for which the entire nation should be ashamed, yet all these expensively educated people could think about is their own bank accounts.
There are issues of more pressing concern that doctors should be involved in, such as the mortality rate at the hospital, the high costs of X-rays and MRI examinations, of overall poor patient care by doctors, who attend surgeries as and when they like. Few Barbadian doctors, aware that their profession is about public health and not just money-making, have raised their heads from the trough that is taxpayers’ money to battle for improvements in the state of public health. But, typically, they are more concerned about the continuing rise of unregulated medical practice – so-called complementary medicine – not in the interest of the public, but because this medical practice main block one of their most lucrative income streams.
Recently, the British intellectual and journalist, Will Hutton, asked the question: “How do you successfully break a mistaken and destructive intellectual consensus?” It set me off immediately thinking of the cosy social world and the mental processes in which the political, professional and academic elites in Barbados conspire to converge on the same ideas, which are implemented in much the same way, often by the same people – and, no matter which party is in control, they all expect different results.
Two ideas come to mind: the break of the consensus by the attorney general on the silly and ill-advised decision to plant taxpayers’ money in to the Four Seasons project, which he rightly sees as a private investment which should be let to private investors. The other is equally as irresponsible, the decision to build a spanking new Bds$800m hospital in Kingsland. Both ideas are loopy and reveal the poverty of our policy-making, especially when it comes to major capital projects.
First, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, opened to the public in 1963, which competent and firm management cannot sort out. What patients are complaining about are issues such as time-wasting, spending hours before being seen by a doctor in Accidents and Emergencies, of under-productive nurses spending time on the wards talking to each other while surgical patients are in pain and crying out for help, over-paid and arrogant, sometimes even questionably competent, doctors being on the public payroll while spending their time looking after their private patients. The list goes on. So, to the ordinary man and woman in the street, the real problem at the QEH is not the building, although that us falling apart, but what goes on inside the building.
The government has recently announced a plan to spend Bds$800m on building a new hospital. But, like most things it has done since unexpectedly coming to power, it is in danger of putting the horse before the cart.
In principle, as many of you would have known, I am all in favour of a stimulus to keep the economy moving, in fact I am on record as calling for the central bank to print Bds$1bn to feed in to the economy. I believe that this would allow the disgraceful case of Al Barrack to be settled by allowing the businessman a central bank drawdown – of about $250000 a month – better that than nothing.
The only real danger from this liquidity is inflationary, and this can be managed. In any case, it is an issue that should be publicly debated by the central bank, the minister of finance and interested parties. Typically, all we get is silence.
Yesterday my grandmother was admitted into one of the District hospitals. Her caretaker (one of her children) left three new house dresses, two new night gowns, a new pair of bedroom slippers in the suitcase next to her bed until a plastic clothes locker could be bought. With a permanent marker and in large print my mother marked her name and ward. My mom while on the ward saw a box of cereal on top of the refrigerator. Knowing that my grandmother doesn’t eat that she asked what is served for breakfast. The nurse asked her “what do you want to know that for?” and did not disclose that info.
They said that since my grandmother was new, she might want to walk off or give trouble so they restrained her to her bed by tying her hands and around her waist. While we understood that we wondered if she would be in those restraints all day and night without a chance to walk around but we figured that since she still uses the bathroom on her own, she would get mobility when she had to go there and also for showers. However, the nurse then informed the caretaker and my mother that they were to buy diapers for her and they said well she uses the bathroom on her own and she said well we will put her in diapers. Water settled in my mother’s eyes at the thought of leaving her mother there, it was hard decision. The nurse saw her and said “what are you crying for? Ppl have to die” My mother told her “she is my mother and it is difficult for me to leave her here”.