IN THE UNOFFICIAL “DICTIONARY” of Bajan terms, a “mugen” is described as a foolish person. Consistent with how one would expect a politician to treat a “mugen”, Minister of Health John Boyce three days ago told the country a new complex to replace the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) was still in Government’s plans. He said he even went looking for some place to put it.
We can’t help but ask: What plans?
It is about time that our political leaders recognise that even if they do not listen to what they themselves say, simple folk do, and if some of these statements were not so ridiculous they would make for excellent stand-up comedy.
Every day, for all its achievements and strengths, Barbadians shudder at the thought of having to be admitted to the QEH, not because of the age of the building, but because every aspect of it has been so badly neglected for so long that many have come to expect that entering even with a minor health complaint offers no guarantees if or how you will exit.
The shortage of nurses that every Barbadian regardless of his or her station in life knows exist, will not be corrected by a new hospital. The chronic shortage of drugs at the QEH will not be addressed by a new hospital. The long delayed and often postponed surgical operations will not be expedited by a new hospital. Sitting in the Accident and Emergency Department and seeing the sun rise twice before you get treatment will not disappear with a new hospital.
Again we ask Mr Boyce: What new hospital?
In the Democratic Labour Party’s 2008 elections manifesto there was no specific mention of a new hospital. In fact, its stated position then under the heading Health Care For All coincided perfectly with ours today: “The DLP believes there is no point in building a 21st century facility with 19th century attitudes . . . .”
By 2013, in its new manifesto, however, it was trumpeting success that apparently was only obvious to its authors: “In just five years the DLP has rescued the QEH; and the QEH is well on its way to being restored as a premier health care institution in the Caribbean.”
Interestingly, in that same document it promised to build a “new general hospital” – apparently to replace the one it had just rescued and was turning into a premier health care institution in the Caribbean.
So now we have two additional questions: Has the rescue exercise continued with the same phenomenal success? If yes, why is the new hospital, as identified by Minister Boyce this week, still necessary? Maybe we should ask a third question: “If the Freundel Stuart Government can’t find the millions necessary to fix the present hospital, from where is it expecting to source the hundreds of millions necessary to build and equip a new one.
We are reasonably sure that even “mugens” would recognise that things are just not adding up here. So without access to the studies, expert knowledge and other peculiar information that would be available to Minister Boyce, we offer him the advice we are sure even “mugens” would say makes sense: Direct your energies toward fixing the hospital as now exists, rather than spouting grand plans that everyone knows the Government does not have the wherewithal to implement any time soon.
Failing that, we may have to refer voters to page 10 of the DLP’s 2008 manifesto, where it said of the then Barbados Labour Party Government: “On the issue of health alone a change of political administration in Barbados would be fully justified.”
Voters bought it then.