Fri | Oct 7, 2022

Health care in Jamaica a death sentence

Published:Friday | November 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

On Saturday, September 5, 2015, a letter was published in The Gleaner which expressed absolute frustration with Jamaica's public health-care service. That writer was my nephew, Kevin Bernard James, a 26-year-old teacher by profession who became an ultimate victim of a shattered health-care system, as he died at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) on November 2, 2015.

Kevin's journey to an untimely death started in December 2014 when he was diagnosed with a right cerebellopontine angle tumour (acoustic neuroma) with proptosis of the right eye. On being told this, he searched tirelessly for employment to offset surgery expenses, but all attempts proved futile. And so, a once-proud and hard-working young professional was forced to return to live with his father, look odd jobs, while being financially supported by his family and friends.

Throughout this period of uncertainty, Kevin would make several trips from rural Jamaica to KPH, where he would feel close to having surgery, but oftentimes was told to return another time. Concurrently, he would do his fundraising initiatives to offset expense - a valiant fight which saw him garnering the needed funds. During this time, he took to social media to express his pain and frustration of being a poor, unemployed male in Jamaica, with no 'links'.

Weary, but still fighting, in the week of September 28, 2015, again Kevin was thrilled about getting his surgery done, but again disappointment struck, as there was not enough space on KPH's intensive care unit, and so he pondered if should return home and wait until contacted by KPH. No, he knew all too well that, in Jamaica, out of sight meant out of mind. And so, he finally got the surgery done on October 8.

Towards the end of October, his mother was informed that he had an infection, for which the hospital does not have the drugs (sounds familiar?). Over that last weekend, family members noticed ice being packed around some areas of his body.

On Monday, November 2, 2015, his mother was informed that Kevin died as a result of choking on his vomit. In the closing of the same letter previously mentioned, Kevin wrote: "... Health care in Jamaica is a death sentence from which the poor have no escape. I feel as though I am serving 15 years to life ..." And, indeed, he was as the Government of Jamaica left him no choice.

Nevertheless, seeing that my nephew contributed immensely to Jamaica, it is my hope that the Government of Jamaica will agree that he was a person in a real sense, and thus, demand a probe for answers, answers that have not been forthcoming from KPH to us. Poor people's lives matter.


Distraught Aunt