Of Scandals and Sheer Bloody-mindedness

For several weeks late last year the hashtag ‘deadbabyscandal’ was splashed all over social media. At the time I was studiously avoiding any news or public opinion on the topic because I was working in the midst of the neonatal department at one of the hospitals involved. I was already getting a lot of emotional backlash at work from my superiors (it having trickled down from the public) – I didn’t need it firsthand.

The first time I looked up any information at all on this topic was when one of my fellow intern/blogger (barefootmeds, she’s awesome. Go say hi) asked for details, which I will share here. Newspaper articles, because now that I work for the government I’m legally obligated to keep their secrets (or some shit like that).

This is how it started: Four Months, Eight Babies Dead.

And then it got worse: Another Baby Dies at Cornwall Regional.

And then someone said something they shouldn’t have: Ferguson Sorry for ‘Not Real Babies’ Comment.

And it only continued to escalate: Backlash Over Dead Baby Scandal because babies and conspiracy theories are a social minefield.

Here is a handy timeline of the hospitals’ responses.

To which I have only the following to add (as a soldier working on the front-line, whose opinion the crowd back home rarely ever wants to hear).

  1. The death of a baby is and will always be a tragedy. It is a horrible, horrible thing.
  2. An approach that was more solution oriented rather than blame oriented would have been infinitely preferable – and this was the approach taken by our Head of Dept and other consultants. Contrast the approach taken by politicians.
  3. Outbreaks happen a lot, especially in critical care areas, and largely because we have an imperfect system that is overburdened and understaffed.

It is a sad truth of our society that change is only galvanized by conflict. That the things which are broken are never addressed until something terrible happens, and even then we can expect a patchwork job at best.

The nine day wonder that this tragedy was paraded as has created some minor changes, yes, but the over-extended structure of our health care system still stands poised to collapse under the pressure. As our politicians preen and pontificate in preparation for the upcoming elections, this tragedy becomes nothing more than mud to be flung and then swept under the rug. When will we forget the curry goat/Red Stripe and the dancehall gatherings masquerading as political rallies and remember what really matters?

The same people who pile up in the Accident and Emergency Department demanding shorter waiting times and more bed space from the hospital staff (who have no say in the matter) neglect to hold accountable the people with the power to actually effect change. On election day they do the same thing they have always done; at the rallies they cheer and stomp and revere, ask no hard questions, make no demands. They they get shot or get sick and they get upset at us in the public system for not having the drugs they need in stock, for not having the right equipment to save their lives.

Jamaican people are the ones swatting violently at the mosquito while sinking knee-deep, waist-deep, neck-deep in quicksand. But don’ worry, mosquito soon stop bite you.

It Never Rains but it. . . Nope, it NEVER Rains

It is day #WholeHeap of a drought here on Mary Seacole Hall at UWI Mona, Kingston. The drought is actually Kingston wide, but I am allowing myself a bit of self-centredness in the first paragraph because this post is all about doing away with my first-world third-world problems mindset. Bigger things are happening than my lack of water. Like . . .

1. Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away.
Image not my own.
He looks like such a nice old grandpa.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, and whole lot of other books but those are the two that spring readily to mind) died two days ago and was honoured in this piece by Esquire. One of the quotes I loved from that article has so much punch:

Courage did not come from the need to survive, or from a brute indifference inherited from someone else, but from a driving need for love which no obstacle in this world or the next world will break.
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

And then I was especially moved to read One Hundred Years of Solitude before my next birthday because the writer started off his piece by saying this:

I wish I could re-create the sensation that surged through me when I first opened One Hundred Years of Solitude at the age of 22. It was like looking at stars for the first time from an untouched spot in the middle of The Amazon or The Sahara. You realize in moments like those that the world offers a much deeper and more vivid experience than you could’ve possibly imagined. You’re in God’s mind.

Which is exactly what I hope for every time I pick up a new book. I don’t always get it, but it doesn’t stop me from searching.

2. Jamaicans continue to make fun of masculine rape (and Lisa Hannah continues to be oblivious).

This cartoon in the Jamaica Observer was printed in relation to the closure of the Alpha Boys Home and based largely on some inflammatory statements from Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hannah.

Clovis; Jamaica Observer

Red for Gender published this online article in relation to the cartoon and Minister’s Hannah’s unjust words (featuring full-length quotes from her speech), but I fear the Jamaican society is just going to continue being blindly stubborn when it comes to anything concerning sex or sexuality.

Minister Hannah effectively declared that the Home was being shut down because boys are raping boys and the Jamaican public effectively responded by laughing at the idea of boys being raped.

This discussion might not be bun-and-cheese worthy, but it is so, so necessary. The Sisters of Mercy who run the Boys’ Home are understandably aggrieved, as are the past students of the Home.

My country, my country, why do you forsake me?

3. The eternally brilliant Peter Philips is taxing bank transactions.

Minister of Finance Peter “Fish-Face” Philips is charging us to access our money so he can cover Jamaica’s growing debt problems. It was bad enough that we had bank fees (did you know First Caribbean charges $160JMD for each withdrawal?) but now we are forced to cover the government’s illegitimate spending habits. I try so hard to love my country and then they pull something like this.

Image not my own.
Jamaican politics at its finest.

There’s an online petition going around calling for Minister Phillips resignation, demanding that Prime Minister Simpson-Miller sack him, actually. I can’t say it will be very effective. Our government has a remarkable ability to ignore the problems of the people (except our curry goat and beer fixes come election time).

This is the same woman who recently refused to review Jamaica’s anti-buggery laws because “they don’t affect the majority of Jamaican people”. Nope. Just the poor, uneducated, at-risk young men who can’t be legally raped under our current justice system. But of course they don’t matter. (I have ranted about this before).

It’s usually easy to forget my own (relatively trivial) problems by turning to the Internet for news but I always need cheering up after.