Sunday, 28 August 2011 02:30
By Dr Jerry Simon
Years ago, my siblings and I used to look forward to the laughs we know we would get from Mr Magoo each morning. For those who do not know, Mr Magoo was a cartoon character whose warped perception was his own reality.
So he would see a mop on a stick and it would be a beautiful woman; or bandits robbing businesses all over town would be tourists sightseeing.
Looking at the public health administration in Antigua & Barbuda, I wonder if Mr Magoo is in control of the same. It would seem that the authorities, like Mr Magoo, have convenient eyesight and what they actually see changes according to how it suits them. While I could look at the Magoo cartoon and laugh, the Magoo-ism here may mean the ill health or even death of many in this country.
As I watch the saga, and I want to add the plight of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers, I can only think that Magoo would have a field day. And it seems that this is true for most issues regarding public health in this country from hospital function to nursing school accreditation. While this phenomenon is not new, it seems to be getting worse.
For example, when I returned to Antigua eight years ago, I was told I was not qualified to work as a physician in this country. Yet, when other doctors overstayed their vacation and consultants wanted to party at sea, I was more than qualified to work at Holberton.
Or when I worked as the only physician at the Mental Hospital (now Clare Vue) for about six months, taking calls 24/7 during that time, my qualifications were never called into question. No Ministry official ever called during that time to find out if I needed even one day off. Then again, I was taking care of the mentally ill; maybe my qualifications (or lack of) did not matter.
Anyway enough about me.
I first want to address whether Emergency Medical Service (EMS) is essential or not. Laugh please, because I cannot think of any aspect of public health that is not essential. However, if policies are made or enforced at the convenience of those who are in control, maybe my reasoning is pure Magoo-ism.
So I now ask, is there any question whether the people who work on public ambulances and are first responders when patients are in distress are providing an essential service? If you consider it an essential service now, then why was it not before? And if it was an essential service all along, why were the essential service providers not treated as such? Then again, Magoo studied law. I did not.
For several months now, questions have been asked about the cell phone towers in Antigua, and whether or not they are a health risk. The debate may continue. But the questions and concerns that the journalists have... should not the health authorities have those as well? Why are the guardians of our public health so ambivalent to this issue?
Is not the high and increasing cancer rate in this country reason enough to explore what may well be a probable cause? Are all those cancer cases in Sea View farm coincidental? But maybe like Magoo, we see the cell phone towers and broadcast antennas as skyscrapers, and are all remarking how wonderfully developed Antigua is.
Pubic Health 101 tells us that man-made environmental modifications are considered to be an extension of lifestyle. Hence, if the major part of chronic non-communicable diseases (cancer for example) are caused by our lifestyle, can we afford to be so dismissive of the evidence staring us in our faces? A far less than adequate investigation carried out by the official from WHO/PAHO and supported by the Ministry of Health cannot suffice, unless you are Mr Magoo.
When it is politically expedient, we talk of the "state of the art" hospital and our many community health clinics. But fine-looking buildings do not necessarily equate to fine health care facilities. Just ask the many cash-strapped Antiguans who are being told every day that the hospital is not offering many basic hospital services.
Further, ask the many elderly patients who are unable to attend clinic, the last time they were visited by the clinic doctor or nurse. While these visitations were a norm years ago, they are becoming an exception now practiced by very few. O' to be able to clone the likes of the late great Nurse Carter of Liberta. But Magoo says she is still around.
Speaking of nurses, it seems that the AUA has accepted defeat, at least for now, regarding its nursing programme. Anyone who is interested can do a little research and see that in the United States, students use several different avenues on their way to qualification as a registered nurse. They initially may do a full degree programme, an associate degree programme (such as AUA), or a diploma programme.
The number of credits offered in each of these programmes is different, but that does not discredit any. It means the notion of AUA not offering enough credits is a fallacy that is painfully evident. There is a difference between a nursing school being accredited, and a student leaving that school being automatically registered as nurse. But Magoo not only sees what he cares to see, he will convince the public unless their eyes are opened.
A lot of song and dance is being made by the health authorities about chronic non-communicable diseases (and quite rightly so). Yet the same health authorities fail to register practitioners of natural medicine, the ones who have the best handle on the management of these so-called lifestyle diseases. These practitioners are marginalized, to the detriment of this country, but Magoo says it is too simple to be goo
I am just hoping that someone can send Mr Magoo on administrative leave or forced vacation, but apparently he is providing an essential service.
Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.