2 May 2015

Who, exactly, is the ‘enemy’?

I note with some unease and more than a little annoyance that nurses in Trinidad and Tobago are ‘striking’ due to their disagreement with some changes ‘ordered’ by Health Minister, Fuad Khan. Some of these are:

  • Fathers allowed in delivery rooms to be part of the birth process
  • Relatives of children and aged patients allowed to stay 24 hours on the wards
  • Extended visiting hours
  • Filming mistreatment of patients by the public on cell phones or other equipment.
  • Reporting and submitting evidence of said mistreatment.

2121As usual, nurses are represented by the usual ‘Heavy-T’ posse (no apologies, everyone I see in that photo is obese.

I previously worked in the health sector, at both San Fernando and Port of Spain General Hospitals. What I say is from my ‘real world’ experience.

Nurses may come into the health sector enthusiastic at first… but that soon goes away. As the weight increases, so will the bad attitude and callousness.

Now, I will be the first to say, I have met really conscientious and hard-working nurses. Many of these would be retired now, but I can recall them going above and beyond the call of duty. But I have also seen the callous and merciless side, and some of the ‘witty’ responses to the public has not changed in over 30 years, continuing the mal-representation from ‘generation to generation’ so to speak. In other words, each successive batch graduating become as fouled as the ones they meet on the wards and clinics.

bagI have personally seen nurses, cooks and ward attendants toting food after 10:00 pm from the kitchens at SFGH, in those big ‘Five Roses’ handle bags. Full bags of beef , beans, potatoes, bread and even the cooked food left over after the evening staff had eaten. They passed down the hill from the kitchen to the roadway next to the doctor’s hostel where there was a (deliberate?) break in the chain link fence and where the cars were conveniently parked.

A former hospital administrator at POSGH was sent on full pay leave after a bag of potatoes was found in his car as he was driving home. He remained on full pay leave for near 15 years until retirement, when his personal personnel file went ‘missing’ allowing him to retire with a full pension.

Nurses though are in a class of their own. I recall such ‘witty’ gems as, “When yuh was spreading yuh leg, yuh wasn’t bawling in pain then.” Clever? Yes sirree… Or how about this one? “If yuh drop dong dead, I go still get meh salary, so doh feel is yuh tax paying meh.” “Mr, I eh know you at all. If yuh dead, I go still sleep sound tonight.”

I just watched the movie Interstellar, and one character said to another WTTE that we only have empathy and love for those whom we know. For those we don’t, we simply don’t care enough to ensure their survival.

For far too long, those in the health sector have been allowed to transgress upon the rights and entitlements of the general public to decent health care. For many nurses, it’s merely a salary at the end of the month, and a ‘good’ field to get into as they are marketable worldwide. Sure, I know they work under pressure, under trying circumstances and with fewer resources than First World countries. Should that let them deliver a sub-standard service with a bad attitude as a bonus? Obviously not. Most of the changes Khan requested are  already practiced here in England, and in many developed countries. Development is not only infrastructure… it’s also attitude.

Some 25 years ago, one Gordon Draper tried changing the civil service to one of… service. He died a broken man, having failed in that attempt. As the Captain says, you can’t change the nature of a dung beetle, even if you take it away from the dung. I’ve often pointed out in this blog that those who can’t hear must feel. I like that Khan is finally cracking the whip. The public is not the enemy, nurses and medicos. You are… to yourselves.