Fergusons touch the “CORN” of the common man.
The EDITOR, Sir:
THE STORY of the outbreaks of the klebsiella and serratia bacteria at the University Hospital of the West Indies and Cornwall Regional Hospital over a five-month period, which led to 42 babies being infected and, ultimately, 19 dying, continues to be on the lips of Jamaicans. There is much debate in various circles about what happened, who is responsible and whether or not the right decisions were made, but there is another side of this saga that will always live on, and that is what I want to highlight.
Dr Fenton Ferguson was 'axed', or should I say shifted, and Horace Dalley is now at the helm of the health ministry. Dr Ferguson ordered the audit, got the results, refused to make them public, came under pressure, eventually had to release the audit and lost his job at the health ministry. Mr Dalley took over, met with the mothers who lost their babies, asked two boards to resign and has indicated that more heads will roll, all in one week. The more learned in the society are talking about the practice in Westminster-style government systems and the whole issue of ministerial responsibility and accountability and policy shortfalls versus operational and administrative shortfalls. The conclusion is Fenton went about it wrong but Horace has started off on the right foot so far. All this aside, what is the common man saying about this unfortunate sequence of events?
from the lips of
the ordinary men
I was travelling out of town and, as I got to a particular destination, I overheard a conversation between a taxi operator, a clerk, and a handyman:
Taxi operator: "No other country in the world a minister could say a thing like dat and dem move him to another ministry. Him would have to go! The people would not stand for it."
Clerk: "Mi know one a di girl weh lose har baby and shi sey shi jus' lef it 'cause when shi hear weh di man sey, shi cyaa believe. Shi just feel like shi waan grab him."
Taxi operator: "Yeah, man! Weh you mean, di people dem pickney a nuh real baby? Dem a wah? Dog puppy?"
Handyman: "A tru, man. From di baby dem born and a breathe, dem a baby. How him fi say dat?"
Taxi operator: "Is like mi live in a 10-bedroom house and a next man live in a two-bedroom [house] and fi him house bun dung and mi a go seh a nuh really house dat. A fi him house dat an' tru mi in a 10-bedroom [house] dat nuh mean sey fi him house a nuh house."
As I sat there listening to them and nodding my head, a message came in from my one of my nieces that the other who was taken to the hospital the night before had a baby boy and, to my surprise, my response to the message was, "I hope it's a real baby."
That statement by Dr Ferguson has left a mark on most Jamaicans that may never be forgotten. No amount of explanation and contextualising will get that out of the mind of the common man. As a matter of fact, it has hit a note to more than the common man, and it is a most regrettable utterance.
In Jamaican parlance, it is said "If you trow stone in a hag pen, the one weh it lick a go bawl out." Fenton stone lick whole heap, and even after his shifting and the appointment of a new minister, the cries continue on the lips of ordinary Jamaicans islandwide. In medical terms, there may be an acceptable explanation for Dr Ferguson's statement, but beyond that, it created a disconnect with the ordinary man that may be irreparable. It should stand as a lesson to all public officials that apologies don't erase what was said, so weigh your words carefully and never speak in the heat of the moment because words already uttered can never be taken back. And even after apologies, the damage may already been done.
We must, in the midst of this, remember that as a result of circumstances that could have been better handled, a group that had no less entitlement to that fundamental human right - 'the right to life' - was deprived, and all measures should be put in place to avoid the reoccurrence of any such. Dr Ferguson, this is Jamaica, and simply put, "Yuh mash a corn!"