It is undeniably true that the most positive response to the call of conscience occurs every Christmas season in our fair isle, Grenada. Even individuals who never broke a word with each other find ways to express a sense of care and humanity to and for each other. It could be successfully argued and unceasingly insisted that, as individuals, we ought to behave in that manner, every day of the year. And, yes, it is our Christian and moral responsibility to do just that. But, shouldn’t we hold those to whom we delegate the social responsibility of managing the affairs of the state in ways that do not ignore the plight of the unprotected, the exposed, the weak and the helpless, to the same standards? And shouldn’t their level of social and human responsibility be manifested in areas that are of greatest concern to the Grenadian woman and man? For example, in the delivery of healthcare services to people as a right to which they are entitled, especially what we are currently enduring, compliments of the institutional recklessness of an uncaring government. It is unconscionable for government to behave as if it is normal and acceptable for many of our poor and health-challenged citizens, to beg for pennies from similarly impoverished but kind-hearted counterparts, as they all struggle to stay alive, while the politically privileged can slip away with family and friend for routine medical checks-up seven at a time when it is advisable not to travel. As recently as the week of December 14, reliable sources informed us that the nation’s ‘chief health servant’ was seen delivering an address to the nation on the then current national COVID-19 status, from an extra-regional hotel. The allegation is that that particular national political figure had quietly slipped away from the sudden, uncontrolled and rapidly deteriorating COVID-19 situation in Grenada to accompany a family member who was desirous of having a non-emergency, non-life-threatening medical procedure done in Miami.
These two contrasting worlds –the one for the privileged that speaks to what the national health system could be offering, if the government had responded to the aspirations of the people over the last quarter of a century; the other, the world of the poor, hopeless and miserably-doomed–serve to demonstrate the perennial plight of the vast majority of Grenadians as they continue to be denied any modicum of humanity under a dismal, broken health system that governmental negligence and privileged arrogance have delivered to all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic, as it continues to unfold in Grenada, keeps reminding us that the challenge is not just to wage a war against that unexpected scourge, but to build a health system that is multi-dimensional, with capacities and capabilities that give us assurances of reasonable protection from health challenges, now and in the future. It, also, speaks to the need for a political leadership that ceases to blame our overall ineptitude conveniently on an epidemic and rather to mobilise the necessary resources to craft and develop a health care system with the requisite capabilities and capacities to reasonably serve the basic health needs of the Grenadian public, subject to the nation’s resource constraints, but tempered by a mission of health for ALL.
If our government were guided by that general objective, many deaths that have occurred in more recent times would have been avoided. It would have saved the shameless Administration of trying to invoke pity for itself by blaming those unfortunate deaths on the ferocity and unexpectedness of the COVID-19 pandemic. One such death was that of a female who complained of chest pains while visiting Saint George’s on the fateful day of September 12, 2020. An ordinary but caring friend took her to the Emergency Room at the General Hospital hoping to have immediate attention for her. Yes, it was an emergency. The patient was asked to hold on, which she did. She died right where she was holding on.
Another such case was that of a female who had had a surgical procedure to remove a brain tumour about ten years ago. The nature of the operation required TIPS management every two to three years. In 2018, leading up to the General Elections, the incumbent party promised to get her to Cuba if it won the elections. Its victory was an astounding 15-0.No doubt, she did at the polls what she reasoned might have made the promise a reality. Sadly, the promise was not honoured by Government, and it never built the capability to do the procedure in Grenada. She was neglected and forgotten. She eventually succumbed at the early age of thirty-one on December 07, 2020.
Some misguided apologists and sympathisers still argue that the NNP-led Government is overwhelmed with the challenges of COVID-19, as if to suggest that things were going to be better had it not been for that big excuse. In fact, those same sympathisers and apologists, half-heartedly and unconvincingly, muttered that the Government is doing a good job, given the tough financial constraints under which it is operating. The immediate question though, is: What was the Government doing about building an effective multi-dimensional health care system before the coming of COVID-19? Grenadians must be reminded that for the last quarter of a century (1995 –2020) except fora brief period (2008 –2012), the current Administration has held the reins of government. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) of 2002–2004 offered this same Administration a real opportunity to revolutionise the national health system and make it resilient to health epidemics. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the Administration’s gross failure to modernise its approaches to health services delivery systems and basic health infrastructure.
A resident of an extensively COVID-19-infected micro-community in the broader Grand Anse area reported recently on how challenged they were in their efforts to survive daily, and the difficulties they were experiencing in trying to contain the spread. The resident said that their lifestyle of living from hand to mouth and with absolutely no support from Government, for example, in the provision of foodstuff, renders it almost impossible for them to self-quarantine, notwithstanding their strong desire to do so. The resident was keen to express that the affected families recognised the huge amount of empathy coming from the health workers on the ground. However, they were enraged by the active behaviour of a reckless Government whose COVID-19 containment strategy consists solely of self-quarantine within grossly ill-prepared and unsupported, impoverished communities. A female victim from a community in Saint Andrew, bathing in tears, lamented whether she and her children were going to die of COVID-19 or hunger, or even both. Unbridled expressions of regret and dissatisfaction were not confined to the ineptness of Government in its inability to support the many poor communities seriously affected by a COVID-19 epidemic that could have been prevented. In the callaloo of hurt, regret, tears and community anger, there were voices that cursed their personal decisions made two years ago to give power to a group that regrettably never had the people’s interest and welfare at heart. And, in chorus, they agreed that the first step that was necessary for changing their lot was to change the inept Administration that was starving them and making life so hopeless.
One distraught young woman, bawled out, “dat criminal government want to kill us wid COVID just as how they leavin’ we baby and dem to die when we go to deliver in the hospital.” She continued, “some of us after givin’ birth ha to watch we pre-mature baby die in front we eye because dey doh have enough incubators to put we baby in. We watch we baby die when they should not.” There was a pause and then, with more tears, she said, “We doh have no health care in Grenada. We doh have privilege and money like some of dem; so, we can’ go in Miami like some of dem so we ha’ to stay here and die.” Throughout the State of Grenada, the poor and unprivileged women and men can be heard saying that they are reaping the dire consequences of the Government’s inept handling of the totally-avoidable COVID-19 disaster that it has created as a result of the unequal, unfair and unscientific COVID-19 “protocols” permitted for various tourism businesses, and which has served to expose the hollowness of the non-health care system that this Administration has failed to replace; an Administration that has had the opportunity to do so over the last twenty-five years. Worse now is the widely accepted position that the current Administration will never be able to address the health care system in any meaningful way in favour of the basic aspirations and reasonable hopes of the real people and communities that make up our State. There are some immediate and fundamental lessons that we must take away from the on-going Government-created COVID-19disaster. Firstly, as a Grenadian society, each of us must take individual responsibility for our safety and protection. Equally important is the need for us to embrace our community responsibility to each other by helping, materially and psychologically, the helpless and hopeless who have come under assault from the corona virus and, worse, the institutional neglect of a distant Government that is no longer our own. Even the forsaken and downtrodden among us must be lifted; the New Year requires that of us. We must become our neighbour’s keeper. The other lesson is that we must seriously resolve at the individual and community levels to take charge and control of our lives by becoming more intimately involved in our national affairs and by consistently making informed and rational decisions that will redound to the welfare and wellbeing of all of us.
The Grenada Movement, TGM