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We so lucky, T&T

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

We are so lucky in T&T. Drugs and white collar corruption have not yet totally taken over society. Yes, we are in crisis because the old is dying and the new is struggling to be born. So there are all sorts of morbid symptoms appearing. But there are still people in the legal, business and religious sectors who speak out against some of the more blatant abuses that take place.

We have a thriving if incompetent radio and television media, a written one that is downsizing but still trying, and a lively social media. Satire is alive and kicking in many forms not least being the calypso, soca and chutney musical scene with “lyrics to make a politician cringe”, as Rudder has said.

My mother recently broke her leg and spent a week in a nursing home. The care she received from all levels of staff was really quite good. From the welcoming and competent orderly in A&E, who did not know I was a doctor, to the ward clerks, housekeeping ladies, nurses, doctors, lab technicians, physiotherapists, billing, X-ray personnel and operating staff. People did their jobs professionally and with a certain amount of enthusiasm.

The nursing home was nowhere near full and many of the professionals were former students of mine but we left feeling rather optimistic about our medical affairs. At least in the private sector.

Not only there. Last week the paediatricians at EWMSC saved the life of a six-week-old baby who presented in shock due to vomiting and diarrhoea. This is not uncommon but never makes the news.

Compare our lot with Venezuela separated from us by five miles of water and a language curtain of cultural differences but with so many similarities, which are what has always made T&T so attractive for Venezuelans, our common delight in jokes, dance, song, sex and now, drugs. The old joke about arriving at Maiquetia airport and seeing a set of small men with huge guns, no longer holds since we now have a our own set of huge men with huge guns. It used to be that when Trinis got drunk, they became friendlier. Venezuelans traditionally get angry and pull out their guns. We getting there, but slowly.

A Venezuelan friend called from Spain on Old Year’s Night to get her New Year “bendicion”. Like many professionals she had left in October and the first thing she said was how safe she felt. She and her two children spent the last hours of 2017 in the “Plaza Mayor” of the town she now lives and works in. She was amazed that they could be out in the street at that time with thousands of Spanish families eating the traditional 12 grapes as the clock struck 12 times for the New Year. Safe! Mother and children amazed to feel safe.

You do not feel safe in Venezuela. You can’t walk in the street any more, at any time. Not because there is no security but because of the security. She is a medical doctor with 25 years’ experience and relates stories of seeing police and soldiers attacking and beating young men unconscious in the street outside the public clinic she worked. It was not uncommon for the military to drive up to the clinic and carry off any university student present. Few returned. Based in a clinic population of over 1000 patients with a chronic, incurable illness all needing monthly injections, she would receive five or six ampules a month from the government-controlled pharmacy whilst over at the Military Hospital, there would be no scarcity.

Things came to a head this year when, after 17 years in charge, she was suddenly demoted and two recently graduated Cuban trained doctors with no experience in her specialty were assigned to head the clinic.

We, at least, still have hope. If only because of Shiny the cow and her proud owners.


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