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EDITORIAL: Govt must improve how it treats assets

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Govt must improve how it treats assets

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THE DECISION by workers of the Emergency Ambulance Service to protest the deplorable conditions of their headquarters, as well as to give their employer an ultimatum for the provision of  improved facilities, has brought back into sharp focus the problem we have had for many years with the upkeep of public properties.

A small portion of that complex, once home to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and a few other affiliated units and agencies, has been the base for paramedics, emergency medical technicians and their administrators for the past few years.

But it appears they have been sharing it with a number of vagrants, vermin and insects – all in an environment more resembling squalor and advanced deterioration than the base of operations for an emergency service that requires practitioners who are at the top of their game and exhibiting a disposition that suggests treatment of victims of mishaps and other misfortunes is their No. 1 priority.

We cannot help but empathise with these workers because if the buildings were not fit for occupation by members of the country’s Cabinet and other top civil servants, then they ought not to be imposed on the lowly but important members of the Ambulance Service.

Unfortunately, though, the situation at this Jemmotts Lane location in Bridgetown is nothing more than a mirror of how we have treated public property in this country for years.

There are enough examples of this around – in and outside of the City – to corroborate our position. And we refer to both occupied and unoccupied Government properties.

It is as though our decision-makers periodically select buildings and determine they are no longer assets worth preserving.

We only need to look at those historic brick buildings around the Garrison area, the old Eye Hospital on Bay Street, the vacant Glendairy Prisons on Station Hill, the old National Insurance Building on Fairchild Street, and the abandoned St John The Baptist School on Holders Hill that was last used as a temporary base for the District “D” Police Station as a few examples of state negligence.

We accept that buildings grow old, that they outlive their usefulness or that the departments that occupy them often outgrow them. But does abandonment to the elements have to be the result in so many instances?

Given Government’s record, would it be unreasonable to envision a massive eyesore in the form of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital should the state follow through on one of its options to build a totally new and modern primary health care complex as an alternative?

In all fairness to administrations of the last quarter-century or so, we have made significant strides in the housing of public servants with the construction of impressive structures such as Warrens Office Complex, Omni Tower, Baobab Tower, the new National Insurance Building, the Humphrey Walcott Building and the Elsie Payne Complex among others, but does building new and neglecting old have to go hand in hand?

Unfortunately, our national financial challenges of the past decade appear to have compounded our problems with the upkeep of buildings still occupied, including many of our schools, which means we will have to be very creative in the years ahead to ensure that our stock of Government properties generally is returned to a state befitting national assets.

So we admonish authorities to begin by providing the men and women of the Emergency Ambulance Service with their long promised new headquarters in the shortest possible order, but don’t leave that Jemmotts Lane complex to vagrants and the elements.