Inner City and Poor Communities would be hardest hit if Ebola reaches Jamaica

The poor and most vulnerable in Jamaica are most often the first to contract and die from just about any sickness that happens to show up in Jamaica and even if they do not die, they are more likely that others to suffer the long-term impact of such illnesses.

The Jamaica Observer today, Thursday, October 2, 2014  headlines screamed ” Death on Hospital Floor”. The story pointed to the rather grim picture at the Spanish town Heath Facility where due to a lack of hospital beds, plus lack of care and respect for human lives and particularity the lives of the poor and vulnerable, a man dies like a dog on the floor of that institutions before help arrived.

According to the story, the patient arrived at the Public Health Institution the day before, complaining of severe stomach pain at or around 7:30pm and those who took him there were told to have him registered and to wait on the outside for his name to be called.

Here is an account of what transpired as reported by the Jamaica Observer.

Gunn told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that, after getting to the hospital, some time after 7:00 pm, her mother was told to get Forbes registered, which she did. Gunn said that after her mother registered Forbes they sent her back out with him.

But he kept on crying, and her mother, who had suffered a stroke, said: “‘Listen, I have a stroke and my son is out there dying with his stomach, somebody need to tend to him’,” Gunn said.

“The lady who was at the desk said to her, ‘Mother, go and sit down; many persons are here’.

“So my mother turn to her and said, ‘Listen, many out here, but none dying. My son is dying’,” the obviously distraught sister told the Observer.

On Tuesday he complained about feeling a pain in his stomach and was taken to the hospital that evening. Gunn said that her mother was there with her brother, who was lying on a towel on the hospital’s floor because there was no bed or chair available, until about 9:10 yesterday morning when his name was called.

“When dem call him there was no porter there… that’s when the security guard ah push him guh inside, and that’s when him drop out of the wheelchair,” Gunn said, breaking down in tears. “Him just go down on his knee and the security find out seh him dead by the doctor dem come.”

The sister continued

If mi brother did dead at home, mi woulda feel better,” said Gunn. “But guess what, dem seh poor a crime, if poor a nuh crime, thief is not a crime, member mi tell yuh. Because if we never did poor my brother woulda guh a Andrews or somewhere and him life would have been spared. But because wi poor, a suh it stay.” Gunn is now worried about her mother, who suffered a stroke two years ago and “is not doing too well”.

“The little boy lay down pon the towel on the hospital floor, him cry, him seh ‘unnu help mi’ and no one,” recalled Gunn. “Until that is the result — death.”

Now given the current situation regarding our readiness for Ebola, what if that patient had been afflicted with Ebola ?

Certainly neither the mother or sister would have been able to tell the hospital, they their son/brother had Ebola. He would first have had to be examined initially by a medical personal once he arrived and an assessment made at that point and then the appropriate actions could have been taken.

What is clear her from the accounts of those involved, is the man was not seen until he was dead having waited for hrs to be attended today and could possibly have infected many more if he had a contagious diseases.

This callous treatment at the Spanishtown Hospital is not the first time and clearly shows that this type of approach by healthcare workers, will do nothing to help our preparedness and/or fight against the deadly Ebola or any other diseases.

Now to the inner city communities or garrisons as they are called.

The lack of proper sanitary facilities which see people defecating on the gully banks or in scandal bags and then tossing them in the gullies offers perfect host for the deadly ebola virus. The cramped living quarters, lack of running water , the inability to access proper medical attention and general ” down cah” attitude, could mean a virtual wipe out of many of the these inner city communities should ebola get here.

If that should occur and people panic and start running from these areas into other areas and given our inability to track down and find people along with the unwillingness of inner city people to give information for fear of being labelled an informers, offers a frightening realization, that this country could pay dearly for its errant ways.

The PNP Government must today start working in these areas as well as those poor communities in other areas of the country, to educate people of the steps they must take to protect themselves, their families and the general communities. They must also move post haste to ensure that certain basic amenities for proper sanitation are in place, so the advise they give to people can in fact be executed.

It makes absolutely no sense to tell people to wash your hands after using the toilet, when the toilet is the gully bank, the bushes or a scandal bag and their is no water, running our otherwise to clean one’s self.

There is a old saying that “Prevention is better than Cure” and today more than ever, this is a truism that must be spread near and far to ensure that this country is spared the ravages of the deadly ebola virus.

While countries like Sierra Leon, Guinea and Liberia are unable to control the spread of the deadly virus and the death rate, Nigeria has done a super job, with not a single new case in that country since June.

The main difference between Nigeria and the others is better understanding of the underlying conditions that allows for the transmission and spread of the disease, swift and decisive management of the crises by the government and above all economic resources aka money to ensure all the above can be handled.

With no money in the country due to our reckless fiscal polices over the last 40 years, an economy that is not growing and creating any wealth and a IMF program that does not tells the government what it must do to protect the interest of its creditors and places this above the interest of the welfare of the people and a government that is so willing to do, we can see what could happen here in Jamaica.

The government must stop the posturing and PR bullsh#t and begin NOW with the help of the media, the telecom companies, the cables companies, the television stations, the huge electronic advertising bills boards around the country to provide every bit in information that speaks to the precautionary steps that must be taken to prevent the virus spreading to the people.

If we need to tell the IMF to cool it, we MUST use every available resources to protect the people of this country, then our Government must stand willing to do so as at the end of the day, it makes absolutely no sense to pass a test if we have to die in order for that to happen.

A sick and crippled nation cannot be productive and as such we must choose to safeguard the health of every resident in Jamaica as it is the people who are ultimately expected to contribute to  and build this country and then share in the rewards of economic prosperity if and when that comes.

Scaremongering, I say hell no, instead this is awareness and education, which leads to better preparation and as a result less or no impact of whatever comes our way.

Its time we become a open society and stop trying to limit my access to information as its a global village and you are no longer the repository of all knowledge and know how. Give us all the information and stop cherry picking and giving to us what it is you believe we should have.

A word to the wise is enough !


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