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Politics or just politricks?

  • Dedicated to all the medical doctors in the Caribbean

By Tony Deyal

Four surgeons sat around discussing their favourite patients. The first surgeon said: “I like operating on librarians. When you open them up, everything is in alphabetical order”. The second surgeon disagreed. “I like operating on accountants. When you open them up, everything is in numerical order”. The third surgeon claimed, “I like operating on electricians. When you open them up, everything is colour-coded.” The fourth surgeon insisted, “I like operating on politicians.” The other three surgeons looked at each other in disbelief. The fourth surgeon continued, “Because they’re heartless, gutless, spineless, and the ass and head are interchangeable.”

So much for politics, but what about politricks? Trinidad’s prime minister, Dr Keith Rowley (PM), announced a plan to declare crime in Trinidad and Tobago as a public health issue. The heads of government of the region agreed so that doctors, especially, are catching even more health than ever.

According to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), “Trinidad and Tobago faces intricate challenges at the crossroads of politics and health. Striking a harmonious balance requires collaborative efforts, evidence-based policies, and a commitment to the well-being of citizens.” In other words, you don’t push one inside the other.

One of my friends went through the gamut of blame by the PM: “First he blamed the opposition. Then he blamed the women and followed by blaming all of us for not pulling our weight.” Worse, the PM said that: “Crime will topple the government.” He called on churches (not the ones popping flavours and selling Texas Chicken) to do their bit.

Then he blamed the police and when that failed, he dropped it on us, the public, again with “Citizens turning a blind eye to crime.” This confirmed my belief that politicians and diapers have one thing in common: they should both be changed regularly and for the same reason. If politicians want crime with lots of murders to be considered a “health” issue it will be “pubic” instead of “public” and should really be with the newborn babies. After all, politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then, as in this case, misapplying the wrong remedies.

What is worse is that Trinidad and Tobago is facing a growing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart problems, strokes, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. They account for over 62 percent of death with three-quarters occurring in people under 70. To Jamaica, add Cardiovascular Disease. And for Barbados, put in tobacco, overweight and obesity. Given all that, you’re adding crime? It is like when a surgeon, an engineer and a politician were discussing which of their professions was the oldest. The surgeon said: “Eve was created from Adam’s rib- a long surgical procedure.” The engineer replied, “Before Adam and Eve, order was created out of chaos, and that was an engineering job.”

But the politician insisted: “Yes, but who do you suppose created the chaos?” That is Trinidad and Tobago and some of the other Caribbean countries for you. They will never learn or change. In the Caribbean, if you stay in one place long enough, you will either be stolen and dumped somewhere else, or you will keep on seeing the same thing coming at you over the years but getting worse all the time.

In an article I posted on December 4, 2002, “BAD TO THE BONES”: I commented on the reopening of the Accident and Emergency Department of the Port of Spain General Hospital. It read: “Casualty back in operation with a skeleton staff.” At first, I thought it was a hoax or an attempt to delude the public, or what Trinis call, “trying a skull”. However, in reading further, I realised that the story was true and I was almost moved to write a letter of commendation to whoever had conceived such a brilliant idea.

Skeletons are ideal for such an operation. First of all, security would be boned up rather than beefed up. Normal human beings, as well as the people who frequent casualty departments, would not be able to breach the hospital’s defences, or gain entry unlawfully, because only the people in charge would have skeleton keys. Make no bones about it, a skeleton staff guarantees transparency. Skeletons might be numbskulls or boneheads, but they are too smart to steal food from the cafeteria or towels from the laundry.

Additionally, you cannot pin anything on them for stealing and selling body parts to private institutions. Also, by using a skeleton staff, the problem of the overcrowded mortuary will be ended. After all, skeletons are people with their outsides off and insides out. While skeletons may have some difficulty in standing up for themselves, they don’t bow to pressure or knuckle under despots, doctors or dictators. Even though some might be lazy bones, most of them work very hard.

On the downside, they might be messy. One of them went to the cafeteria and ordered a cup of coffee and a mop. Another refused to work at the hospital because his/her heart wasn’t in it. One refused to attend the welcome party put on by the ministry of health because it had nobody to dance with. And when one reached very late for work and tried to lie, explaining that it was chased by a dog, its supervisor said: “Don’t try that. I can see right through you.”

Skeletons are easy and cheap to maintain. They don’t use the cafeteria food because they have no stomach for it and nothing gets under their skin. They are very studious and are always boning up for exams. They don’t get angry and back down because they don’t have the guts to fight. On Sundays, they stay on the job instead of going to church. They have no organs. They don’t take coffee breaks. They take coffin breaks.

There is no question that the use of the skeleton staff at the Accident and Emergency Department will reduce the present excessive demands on the limited resources of the hospital. This way doctors will be in paradise. They will have more time for their private practice and the ministry of health will have more money to spend on really important things such as attending international conferences. I would really like to see the idea of employing skeleton staff extend to other ministries throughout the Caribbean. Most government ministers already have the basic resources and need only the political will to implement the new strategy. They all have skeletons in their cupboards. Some even prefer mummies to skeletons because they like to keep everything under wraps.

In 2010, eight years after I wrote the column, a Chinese firm was hired to build the new hospital block. Then, not too long ago, and after another ten years, the Chinese “shanghaied” the project and left. Now, in 2024, the same project will be “ON TARGET” by March/April 2025. By that time, the criminals, instead of being police targets, would have targeted, with the help of the police, the doctors, hospitals, drugs and their own nurses.

*Tony Deyal was last seen thinking about Doctor Bell who fell down the well and broke his collar bone. Doctors should attend to the sick and leave the criminals alone.



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