Thu | Dec 8, 2016

It takes cash to care

Published:Friday | February 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Tuesday last, my wife, Velia, had eye surgery at Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). Consultant ophthalmologist Dr Albert Lue surgically removed the cloudy lens in her right eye and replaced it with an artificial lens. As Dr Lue removed the eye bandage the next day, and Velia could see (me) clearly for the first time in months, she burst into tears. I wish she had had something better to look at.

Many negative words have been written and spoken about KPH, often to do with shortages of staff, equipment and supplies, mostly because of lack of funding. As true as these words may be, they do not capture the great job the doctors, nurses and other paramedicals there do in service of the poor people of Jamaica.

The patient care by the staff was professional and caring, and even though the benches were tough and inadequate, the queue at the operating theatres moved right along. Patients for eye surgery, for the removal of growths and ingrown toenails and the like, went in and out: tense with anxious faces going in, and coming out all smiles. It seems to me that KPH does a lot with the little they have.

Some years ago when my wife had another medical complaint and had to be hospitalised, her private general practitioner confided in us that his hospital of preference - and the one he was now recommending for her - was KPH. With some reservations, we followed his advice, and when she was discharged nine days later, we had to agree that the care and attention she had received on the open medical ward was excellent.

I am led to recall that in 1938 when Sir Edward Brandis Denham, GCMG KBE, then governor of Jamaica, had a heart attack at King's House, he was immediately rushed to KPH, despite the availability of nearer private hospitals and clinics to offer him care. Today, the well-to-do shun this great hospital in western Kingston, sometimes to their disadvantage. Many uptowners shun downtown Kingston full stop! And western Kingston, in particular! Maybe if many of the articulate minority sought medical care there, KPH would receive more attention and funding from the authorities.

Dr Lue, who is also head of the Department of Ophthal-mology at KPH, told us a tragic story on Wednesday when we went to remove the eye patch. The day before, a patient - a carpenter - was admitted into KPH. While sawing a piece of wood, a splinter had flown into his eye, penetrating the eyeball and lodging itself in the retina. Removing it requires specialised equipment. Some years ago, KPH had the only such machine in the government medical service, but it broke down and could not be repaired. For the last few years, Dr Lue has been asking for it to be replaced, but he has always been told there were no available funds.

The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) has

a similar machine, so he immediately made arrangements to transfer his patient there. Alas and alack, officials at the UHWI informed him that their machine is also out of service.

This poor Jamaican carpenter cannot afford to be flown to the USA to a hospital which has the necessary equipment. He is going to lose his eye.

Were this carpenter a Cabinet minister or senior civil servant, he would immediately be flown to Florida by air ambulance. "Jackass seh de worl' nuh lebel."

As good as the doctors and nurses in our health system are, if they do not have the equipment and supplies they need, they cannot offer proper services to needy Jamaicans. It takes cash to care. As long as Cabinet ministers and senior civil servants do not have to rely on Jamaica's public health facilities for their own personal medical care, ordinary Jamaicans will be at a serious disadvantage.

 

HOIST BY HIS OWN PETARD

 

Former Senator Arthur Williams says he feels vindicated by the recent decision of the constitutional court that his removal from the Senate by the prime minister using the undated letter of resignation he signed was illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to public policy. Which Arthur Williams feels vindicated? The one who drafted the undated letters of resignation for himself and his fellow Senate appointees to sign? Or the Arthur Williams who was removed from the Senate with the letter of his own making?

It seems to me that Arthur Williams is hoisted by his own petard.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.