Fri | Jan 27, 2023

Lifting the veil of despair

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Contributor

The opening of the state-of-the-heart Orchard health clinic on Monday was a landmark moment for western Jamaica and, indeed, the entire country. This clinic is the latest philanthropic gesture from American Edgar Cullman who has been a tryall resident for many years.

Cullman, 92, described as king of the cigar business, was named Commander of Distinction by the Jamaican Government in 1989. I was curious about this benefactor and was drawn to his curriculum vitae. Apart from being a cigar man, he has been involved in a variety of businesses which range from plastics, packaging, potato chips, laxative to real estate.

"I love Jamaica," Cullman declared at the formal opening ceremony. "Words cannot describe how much I love Jamaica and its people."

Big ticket items

In a country of so many needs, Mr Cullman must have thought very carefully about where his million-dollar contribution would be best spent. I am happy that he chose health care. Health care is one of the big-ticket items on the national budget and, in the current economic environment, it provides one of the greatest challenges to the administration to provide medical and personnel with the requisite resources.

Politicians eager to impress the electorate always promise to provide affordable health care for its citizens. They are given to making elaborate claims and often unrealistic promises. Many industrialised countries already provide near universal health coverage for its citizens. The debate continues to rage over whether the current government's socialised health care is working. There are arguments on both sides. Some say persons who would normally forego a visit to the doctor will not postpone that visit any longer since the service is free, which is good for preventative care because it can often lead to detection of a major problem in the early stages.

Yet, there are others who argue that with the limited resources at health care facilities the staff is stretched and find it challenging to deal effectively with the increased numbers of patients who turn up on a daily basis. They suggest that this leads to greater inefficiencies.

Current imbroglio

The practical ones among us say people who can afford to pay ought to pay. This is especially important given the current imbroglio over wages, which has kept the nurses and Government in an ugly embrace for most of this Government's life. Orchard is a private facility, so one expects that patients will pay for the services offered there.

Scores of Jamaicans, including those with limited means, are reaching out to help Jamaica's next generation. Future doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, nurses etc are being helped to get an education by persons who foot expenses such as tuition, accommodation, books and other day-to-day living expenses. Many do their bit quietly and without fanfare.

These kind souls have helped to lift the veil of hopelessness and despair from scores of talented children who would otherwise fall by the wayside.

We also have to thank those in corporate Jamaica and alumni associations, who continue to give scholarships and other support to students. The Government must now find creative ways to encourage more social enterprise because this is sure means of empowering communities.

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Send your feedback to