Yesterday’s health care debate in Parliament would have been comical had it not been focused on the serious problems plaguing the state run Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which from all reports and accounts of the medical professionals is now at a crisis stage.
But at times it was bordering on laughable to hear our politicians, who with the exception of one or two are really not qualified, seeking to give a medical diagnosis of the situation at the state run institution.
Noticeably absent from the debate was Dr David Estwick, a qualified gerontologist, but it fell to engineer John Boyce and our lawyer Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to seek to convince us all that the QEH is not very sick. In fact, in their words, there is no crisis.
Said Boyce in the same breath in which he was announcing a $22 million shot in the arm for the ailing QEH that is to be delivered in ten days time:
“I am comfortable that the short term arrangements that have been put in place will see that immediate turn around and I’m comfortable with the fact, and Barbadians need to be assured that with the injection. . . of some $20 million, the medium term has also been comfortably taken care of.”
He also sought to downplay the diagnosis given by a real group of doctors – some of whom work and practise at the QEH every day – who have said that the situation has now reached a crisis level.
But Boyce would have us believe otherwise. In fact, he gave an assurance that the shortages that were referred to in the statement from the medical doctors had been addressed and were being addressed.
“This is a normal practise whenever we have to deal with any kind of shortage. It occurs sometimes with the public being informed and many times it occurs without any words being whispered,” Boyce said.
He was strongly backed up in Parliament yesterday by our goodly Prime Minister who was even more strident in his view that there is no crisis to speak of – never mind that the doctors have been backed up by the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners in outlining a series of critical shortages.
In Stuart’s estimation it is all a great exaggeration.
And we would have to add conspiracy if we are to believe, as Stuart says, the impression which is being given “all of a sudden” that the hospital is “falling apart [and] things that are happening there now have never happened before”.
We wish to point out for the Prime Minister’s benefit that it matters not whether the situation today has existed before. Whether this is the case or not, it provides no comfort to those in need of immediate medical care, especially those who were booked for elective surgeries this week only to be told that the hospital was dealing with emergency cases only.
Indeed, if the doctors are exaggerating as you say, why the urgent response in the form of a $22 million lifeline?
And have we become so lapsed as to accept shortages in critical supplies as the norm?
If not, why not simply dismiss the doctors and their charges out of hand and bring to us the evidence of available sutures and other basic medical supplies.
Furthermore, why would the Cancer Society now be appealing to the public for help in the form of sponsorship for cancer patients who now find it difficult to access treatment from the QEH?
To say that there is no crisis, is to seek to pull the wool over our eyes and not for the first time either.
To tell the truth, it’s actually quite sickening.