Brian-Paul Welsh | Sacrifices for development
The path towards realising the Jamaican society in which we all want to live is literally covered with blood, sweat and tears. This since all throughout our journey we have endured needless pain and suffering brought about by our lack of foresight, absent-mindedness and negligence.
Whenever I traverse this land, be it on foot or in some sort of vehicle, I am amazed at the perilous course we must learn to navigate in order to live in this community.
Whether it's the construction material left overnight in the middle of the roadway, the uncovered trench on the sidewalk, the gardener operating his lawnmower on a dusty patch with scant regard for oncoming traffic, or the taxi driver collecting and depositing people's 'pickney' with less care than if they were farm animals; oftentimes, simply making it home unscathed can feel like a noteworthy accomplishment.
We are all painfully aware of our hazardous environment, and shake our heads incredulously every time another unfortunate Jamaican meets his demise or suffers some horrific injury that might have otherwise been prevented had proper care been taken.
Many have been quick to recognise that not all lives have the same value on these shores, and the collective sloth in addressing matters of concern to the preservation of the health and safety of ordinary people is reflective of this underlying contempt.
So we swerve every morning to avoid the construction material still left in the roadway since last week, and watch the poor children play hopscotch on the sidewalks as they plot their course to and from school. We stand afar and curse the 'fool-fool' gardener for whipping up the rocks, and then we share videos of the bloody aftermath for amusement.
It seems we have become so accustomed to a life of insecurity that our senses have been numbed and a palpable cynicism has emerged, until, of course, we are personally affected.
No matter how many heart-breaking news stories or devastating headlines might dominate the week's moral panic, we know deep down that in this country nothing will come of it until the death or serious injury of the right 'smaddy'.
I remember, as a child, a crater could be found along Barbican Road that grew in circumference each day. One evening as we inched along, delayed by this cavernous addition to the roadway, a fancy SUV with outriders to protect its VIP hastily overtook the line of traffic and unknowingly sped toward impending doom.
I watched in horror as the Emperor's silver crown violently bounced about his chariot until the driver was able to safely emerge on the other side. Good, I thought, that his majesty finally knows how it feels. By the following day the crevice had been filled, but I still worried his Royal Highness might have cricked his neck.
Highlighting the significant impact of trauma on the cost of health care in Jamaica, Dr Alfred Dawes, in a Gleaner column earlier this year, shared findings from the Jamaica Injury Surveillance Survey (JISS) indicating that unintentional injuries accounted for 45 per cent, and intentional injuries accounted for 38 per cent of visits to the island's emergency rooms for injuries over the period 2000-2009.
It has long been settled that the burden of trauma on the health sector is causing an already overburdened system to burst at the seams. Resources that could be used to treat other conditions are instead being diverted to treat injuries, of which it is said that up to 90 per cent may be preventable.
In successive years, the estimated cost of hospital care for the treatment of injuries has met or exceeded 20 per cent of the overall health budget and with new diseases looming on the horizon, we literally cannot afford to add more burden to the limping health sector.
It is truly in no one's interest to wait until a headline or a tragedy before addressing the issue of personal and public safety in Jamaica.
Everyone says nothing will be done about it until the right smaddy dies, but nobody wants that smaddy to be them.
- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on social media @islandcynic.