Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Jaevion Nelson | Time to prioritise healthcare

Published:Saturday | December 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The Kingston Public Hospital.

Quality healthcare has not been a (top) priority for successive governments in this country. Only lip service to improving the public-health system seems to be, as if that will guarantee quality of life and ensure a 'healthy and stable population'.

It's telling that people become so worried and anxious whenever they or someone close to them have to visit the nearest clinic for even the most minor of illnesses. God forbid they have to be admitted at one of the hospitals, especially if it's one of those known for its body count. You can barely sleep at night.

Sadly, despite the significant allocation of more than $60 billion to the Ministry of Health each year in the National Budget, the reports in traditional and on social media suggest people aren't getting quality healthcare. What's even more tragic about all of this is that things seem not to have got much better though it is so obvious the shambolic state many of our health facilities are in.

My friend gets angry every time she passes Bustamante Hospital for Children because she lost one of her sisters there at a very tender age. Passing by there is a reminder of how poor service and overworked and callous medics can cause you to lose someone you love and care for deeply. Though that was several years ago, things seem not to have improved much. A couple months ago, a man tweeted about how he and his wife were there for many hours waiting for their child, who was terribly ill, to be attended to. Earlier in the year, there was a report about a man who lost his fiancÈe at Spanish Town Hospital and scores of others tweeted similar stories about how they lost a friend, sibling, relative or loved one there as well.

If you want to know how undesirable the public-health system is, just survey whether people would opt to use a private facility if they could afford to or if they'd rather you take the chance to drive past the nearest facility, so they could go to a preferred doctor.

Many people, our political leaders especially, will not understand the gravity of the situation because they do not use these public-health facilities, they do not really listen to their constituents as much as they should, and they only visit to cut a ribbon or pose for a photograph in a space that has been sanitised for show.

Please note, before you quip with your usual political idiocy, this is not an attack on Christopher Tufton or the previous health ministers in either administration. It is not an attempt to blame the policy of free healthcare for the state of the public-health services (only a fool would do so). Instead, this is a call to action for all 63 elected representatives in the Parliament to get off their rumps, stop being such lumpen and prioritise the provision of and access to quality healthcare.


Don't wait for another scandal


We absolutely cannot wait on a next 'dead baby scandal' to be reminded about the problem. The people's weeping and wailing daily is a reminder that should shatter the deafening silence of our political leaders and jolt them all into action.

Are people not deserving of more than lip service where addressing the state of the god-awful public-health services are concerned? We cannot take comfort in the mere mention of improving public-health services in manifestos, throne speeches, and during the Budget debates. We cannot allow them to use this situation to point fingers and score political points.

Quality healthcare must be prioritised and should become a legacy project for any political leader who truly has the interest of the people, having been elected by them, to represent them. Imagine if over the last 10 years improving one clinic and one hospital to a standard that is excellent was a focus each year. If we can find money to put on lavish parties for ministers and for all sorts of other things, we certainly can do such a simple and necessary thing for the people of this country.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to and