Mon | Dec 5, 2016

No budget for crime victims?

Published:Monday | April 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The only gainfully employed son of one of my ageing patients was shot in the head from behind by a (typically cowardly) gang member who mistook him for a rival. The don, who ordered the 'hit', beat up the shooter and sent apologies for the error. Now, my ageing patient mourns his son, gets no justice and is left without his sole source of financial support.

I am only one physician, confined to a 12 x 14-foot office for most of my life, yet I can relate many cases of victims, families and relatives that have been decimated by criminal acts. The untimely deaths of important breadwinners have left untold thousands of Jamaicans in inextricable financial bewilderment. And, arguably even more debilitating, are the many thousands of victims who have been injured beyond repair (blinded, paralysed or otherwise permanently disabled) and forever totally dependent on the charity of others (friends, relatives and, sometimes, the church).

As usual, the vast majority of victims of serious, violent and deadly crime are the poor who are already at a major socio-economic disadvantage. These people cannot access the exclusivity of social networking or afford any form of insurance to augment or replace their income; therefore, a loss of a provider (because of death or incapacitation) represents a disaster of epic proportions.

Last week's media count of 436 killings in 101 days is frightening and astonishing. The high murder rate has obvious negative ramifications that hurt us locally and internationally. However, that tally does not take into account the financial impact and ripple-effect that violence has on our individual families and communities. As I take the initial family history from patients, increasingly I am hearing of (mostly) fathers being killed off by gunmen and/or injured family members becoming the obligatory beneficiaries of care and support.

Gov't throwing away billions

In spite of our growing number of derailed/disrupted lives and families due to crime and violence, the government has not seen it fit to step up to its responsibility to assist the ever-increasing number of victims of crime. I, therefore, reiterate my unhappiness with this administration's decision to literally throw away billions in revenue on its "safety net" policies.

I still believe that this was mostly a political strategy and I have always maintained that, "no user fee" status was always granted to anyone who could not pay for medical care at any of our government-run health institutions. Now that no one is ever asked to pay anything ... no one ever does, and that is costing us dearly. Some of that lost revenue could have gone a long way to improve our struggling and very deficient health sector.

In a society wracked by violence and several killings each day, some of that money could also have gone towards assisting our swelling number of dependants sent adrift in stormy economic seas without their breadwinner or 'old age pension'. Many people left permanently disabled (and dependent on people already unable to meet their basic daily needs) by the callous acts of violent criminals could have been assisted.

Deficient socio-economic policies

Criminality and violence do not appear out of thin air; they come about as a result of deficient social and economic policies that effectively secrete a subset of society that inevitably evolves its own mores and morals, laws and governance. Criminality and violence represent the failure of a society and ignoring the victims of our failings will only compound the problem.

It's full time that we budget to assist the victims and relatives of victims of violent crime.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Feedback may be sent to garthrattray@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com