‘I need my money’ - HIV-infected nurse still awaiting funds, even after State disburses $10-million interim payment
"I've known only suffering these past few years, and I didn't call it down on myself. I was only doing my job." This is the plight of Lydia James*, a nurse and mother of five who has been living with HIV since September 2007 when she was stuck in her buttocks by an HIV/AIDS patient on a ward at a hospital in central Jamaica.
"My health is declining, and I haven't been to my doctor in over two years because I can't afford the fees. The last time I went in 2016, my bill was $16,000, and I could hardly find it to pay her, and she doesn't accept health cards. So I can't buy any medication. I can't do anything. I am suffering at the hands of what happened to me," a heartbroken James stated.
A judgment of $39 million was handed down in April this year but is currently being appealed. However, to compound the woman's agony, she is now learning that almost two months ago, the Ministry of Justice authorised an interim payment of $10 million, which she has not yet received, and up to yesterday afternoon, her lawyer had not said when she would be paid.
James contacted The Gleaner in September, more than three years after her story was first published by this newspaper, and sought to make it public that she still had not been paid.
But documents obtained by The Gleaner showed that the $10 million interim payment had been sent to an account held by Dixon and Associates Legal Practice on August 28.
Furthermore, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck confirmed to The Gleaner that the Government had no outstanding debts for judgment awards.
"The last time I spoke with my lawyer was September 24, 2018, five months after the judgment was handed down. I never heard a word from her in between that time. When she called me, I told her I was reaching out to The Gleaner to get help because I'm suffering, and she keeps on telling me to hold on. So I've reached a stage in my life where I am giving up on her," she said.
"I need the money to be able to do my treatment so I can support my children. I have to live for them."
James said she was also in dire need of three stem-cell therapy procedures to slow down the virus in her system. She said that in 2015, one treatment cost roughly $260,000. She further stated that her attorney had advised her against speaking to the media and deposited $300,000 to her account on September 28 for her to begin her treatment.
Efforts to get an explanation from James' attorney, Khadine Dixon, have so far been unsuccessful. Dixon told The Gleaner that she was in dialogue with the Office of the Attorney General regarding the matter.
"I just need the money. My kids will be here after I've passed and I cannot help them to further themselves, their education, with the current state of my health. I just need to close this chapter. I didn't call this down on myself. I didn't go to a supermarket and buy it. I was just doing my job," James said.
* Name changed on request.