WILD COOT: So you aren’t Bajan?
WELL, walk good my friend.Suppose you get lick down while crossing the road in front of Cave Shepherd store; or suppose like the Wild Coot you catch a fit when your diabetes reading is too low or too high; or you are having a baby, yuh salt.
What are you saying Wild Coot? I am a Grenadian living for the last ten years in Barbados. I can’t vote because I have no identification card. I pay taxes and VAT when I buy anything or use electricity or my telephone. My boss deducts taxes from my wages each week. How you mean I salt?
Tell me something! Have you ever been sick and needed to go to the QEH (Queen Elizabeth Hospital)? You know that you Grenadians have to pay, despite your contribution to the Treasury. If you do not have health insurance, “cat gnam yuh suppa”!
Many people who reside in Barbados, but do not have citizenship are at a terrific disadvantage and should get health insurance or speak to my friend the Minister of Health, although I believe that he is not able to help you with your problem. In fact this matter of health care is gradually becoming more and more problematic as its costs increase.
More and more diagnostic procedures are being developed that can improve the lives of Barbadians and create the boast of the most centenarians per capita in the world. But not all of the people living here are able to take advantage of these improvements. The QEH is experiencing problems because of inadequate financing. Private health care organisations that have sprung up have to intervene and fill the breach. Those who cannot access the QEH because of their status must pay through their noses for private care unless they happen to have the necessary health insurance.
For many poor people eking out a living in Barbados (probably fleeing from a worse situation) this is a sad situation. We call to mind the vicious fight President Obama has had in the US in acquiring health care for millions.
I do not see it getting better in the near future, so you had better walk good. Each year the national budget allocation to the QEH gets smaller compliments of our financial straits. This has forced the government to make this hard decision that can affect people who are not Barbadian citizens.
So then, what about people who do not have insurance and whose doctor diagnoses the need for an urgent operation for some grievous malady? They die. Period. Sand has run out of their hourglass. For them like Francis Bacon I say, “It is a miserable state of mind to have few things to desire, and many things to fear.”
Because of the aforementioned scarce resources of the QEH you may be tempted to say that home drums beat first, but consider a situation where the non-Barbadian breadwinner of a family of four in Barbados who has to have an operation for the removal of a kidney that has been affected by cancer. Such an operation could be as costly as $20 000 and change.
For him on a weekly wage there is no source of finance, as he has no insurance. He is left like a dog that has been hit on the street by a ZR van. Where then is our humanity? Is this the disgraceful situation in which our handling of the economy has landed us? Yes, and come November we will be celebrating 50 years of being in charge of our destiny. And we boast of the celebrities who come to the island to enjoy our festivities on the Hill.
Don’t we have a responsibility for the people that we encourage to come to Barbados? Or do our responsibilities extend only to those who can promote the beauty and attractiveness of the island or supposedly earn us foreign exchange or rebuild Sam Lord’s Castle? I fondly ask, as John Milton would put it.
So Wild Coot, our boast that we are not only an economy but also a society has a hollow ring? Despite what the government spokesmen are saying to the people, every year more taxes are added, but people cannot pay. Some people have given up and would prefer to lick out what little they have earned on fetes as if this is the last mass. Social needs are eroded daily especially for the middle class, yet the government through its spin doctor spokesmen affirm that the window dressing is the real McCoy. Perhaps those in a better position can sing, “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail” like Simon and Garfunkel.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email: [email protected]