Being a porter in a public hospital has several parallels with being a reporter at a newspaper.
Both jobs don't pay well, when one considers the amount of work to be done, and the two jobs can be thankless tasks.
Working as a porter or janitor in any major hospital is not easy, especially when the institution is ailing like the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH).
I learnt this first-hand while working at the KPH for one week as a supervisor with Lamasa Limited.
After just a couple of days on the job, my life was threatened by a one-legged man sporting dreadlocks.
He was obviously upset that the porters were not, in his estimation, moving as fast as they should to get his loved one into the emergency room.
Apparently, she had collapsed under the weight of the news that her father had just died.
The situation was indeed sad and my heart went out to the family and friends of the dead man.
I understood the frustration of the man with the dreadlocks because when a loved one is ill every passing second seems like a tick of eternity.
But what was unconscionable was the expression of his frustration.
The man began to threaten the lives of the group of porters that left their station at the entrance of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit and went several metres to where the young lady was to get her the help that she needed.
marked for harm
According to him, the porters' slowness in responding to the emergency situation warranted him 'marking our faces' and doing us harm when we were leaving work.
I had to ask the porters not to respond. But at least one porter was very upset because situations like these unfold far too frequently.
He recalled several similar incidents, one of which included a policeman who used an expletive at him because in his bid to get the cop to the emergency room quickly the wheelchair bounced the door.
The porter insisted that patients and their relatives and friends should show some respect to porters. I agree.
Patients and visitors to the hospital should show some more respect to the porters and janitors. They are people with feelings just like any of us. The stories we shared on that little bench in the A&E testified to this.
During conversations about various topics, including family matters, two of the porters showed me photographs of their children. Both men were obviously proud fathers.
If there were no porters and janitors at the KPH, we would not want to take our relatives to that hospital, even if services being provided are free.
Here's why. The hospital would not be clean and that would give rise to all sorts of illnesses besides the ones that the patients were seeking treatment for.
When you take a relative or friend to the hospital in a case of emergency the anxiety might cause you not to think clearly, but at all times you should remember that without a porter your loved one would not be taken to the appropriate area quickly to receive treatment.
While working at KPH, my substantive duty was to supervise the porters and janitors and to ensure that they complete their assigned tasks.
I was also expected to pitch in and get my hands dirty if no one could be found or if everybody else was busy. I did.
But I mostly carried out the functions assigned to the porter - taking patients to various sections of the hospital for treatment using wheelchairs and stretchers.
I also helped to properly position a patient on her bed to prevent her from getting bedsores.
After just a week, I developed a lot more respect for porters and janitors and the work they do (please note that I said more because I firmly believe that we should show the utmost respect to those who serve us).
Their job function is important and they should be paid more for doing it.
Porters are paid $9,700 fortnightly. After deductions they take home approximately $9,106. That appears grossly unjust.
The take-home pay is practically all they are entitled to, as the job is void of some basic benefits.
This too appears to be a sick, sick injustice that should be remedied with dispatch.
Truth be told, as in any profession, I did come across some porters and janitors who shirked their responsibilities.
But those dodgers of duty are numbered in the minority. Most of the men and women in blue are hard workers and epitomise what it means to be a blue-collar worker.
I was particularly impressed by some porters who treated the patients with a commendable level of care.
The reassuring conversations they had with the patients were just a joy to observe.
Based on conversations with the workers, the disrespect porters and janitors so often face also comes from within. They complained that some of the doctors and nurses treat them with disdain.