Sun | Sep 24, 2017

EDITORIAL - After May Pen, better late than never

Published:Monday | January 21, 2013 | 1:00 AM

After last week's ordeal, the decision by the authorities to establish a permanent police post at the May Pen Hospital has no doubt been welcomed by the staff, patients and other users of that institution.

Likewise, the police's new policy of conducting risk assessments of all patients admitted to hospitals with gunshot wounds will likely find approval by most Jamaicans.

So, while we do not wish to encourage those who will be cynical of these developments, we believe that there are reasonable questions to be asked about why such policies are only now being implemented, and we seek assurances that the authorities are serious about them.

The point is that it is not the first time a patient at a Jamaican hospital has been shot dead in his sickbed, as was the case with Adiff Washington at May Pen.

Nor is it the first violent incident at that hospital in which either patient or staff was the victim. Nor is it the first time that a police post was promised for the May Pen Hospital.

For example, in 2006, when Senior Superintendent Derrick Knight was in charge of the Clarendon police, he announced the establishment of a police post at the hospital.

Mr Knight's reason: concerns about the security situation at the hospital, including a series of attacks on staff and users of the facilities.

It would be useful for the Police High Command to say if that post was ever set up; if not why; or if established, why it was discontinued if that was the case. In that event, can May Pen now be assured that this promise, made in the heat of the moment, won't be similarly shortlived?

Further, as horrified as most people are about the brazenness of Mr Washington's killing, the manner of his death is not particularly unique in Jamaica. There have been several incidents over the years of gunmen going on hospital wards to finish off their victims and/or attack staff or patients.

In 2010, for example, gunmen went on to a ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital in St Thomas, where Germaine James was recuperating from a previous attack, and shot him several times. Happily, he lived.


Even without these such incidents, we would have thought that in the context of Jamaica, any person who was the victim of a shooting, other than by accident, would, prima facie, be considered to be at risk of his attackers coming to complete the effort.

Unless this assumption, and the assessment it triggers, are the norm only in the movies, we are quite surprised that it has taken Mr Washington's murder to convince the Jamaican police that a similar approach is good enough for them. It leaves us to wonder what occupied the thoughts of police officers when previous victims of gun attacks were hospitalised. Did they consider it the same as a patient being admitted for appendicitis, or checking himself in because of pain from gall stones?

Of course, the May Pen and similar incidents underline the larger problem of crime and criminal violence in Jamaica, demanding a far more comprehensive solution.

But for now, with regard to the strategies announced by the authorities, we say better late than never.

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