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Backward idea –– privatizing the QEH

fighting goliathWell, I have heard it all now! I don’t think I can ever again be surprised by anything that is said in Barbados!

Just imagine: Dr Carlos Chase –– the black Barbadian medical doctor who holds the post of president of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners (BAMP) –– has publicly called upon the Government of Barbados to privatize our very own Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), and to permit the private sector to run it in the same manner as one would run a hotel.

This is easily the single most socially backward statement which has been enunciated in the public domain of Barbados over the past 50 years.

It is also a socially dangerous statement, for what Dr Chase is urging is that the Government of Barbados, elected to office by the predominantly black and working-class population of Barbados, should engage in a course of action that would –– in one fell swoop –– wipe out fundamental social and health care rights that the black masses of Barbados fought for in monumental social battles over the past 150 years.

Let us be very clear about this. For the bulk of the history of Barbados, this island possessed little or no state-owned public health care facilities to cater to the life-and-death health needs of the masses of black Barbadians, and of poor white Barbadians for that matter.

After the formal abolition of slavery in 1838, the local white planter/merchant Government contented itself with establishing a few parochial medical officers and a handful of almshouses –– a mere drop in the ocean of the critical health care needs of the newly emancipated masses of people! And after some time, they also established a General Hospital, but it was extremely rudimentary and totally inadequate.

In the illuminating history text entitled Holding Aloft The Banner Of Ethiopia, the British/Jamaican historian Dr Winston James provides the following snapshot of the health situation for black Barbadians in the early decades of the 20th century:

. . . During the decade between 1910 to 1912 and 1920 to 1922, the average length of life for Barbadians shortened. For women it fell from 32.5 to 31.9 years. And Barbadian men lived on average 28.5 years, slightly down from the 28.7 years for 1910 to 1912 . . . . In 1920 to 1922, Barbadian women died before they were 32 . . . .

Barbados’ infant mortality rate rose during most years of the 1920s, reaching an appalling high 401 in 1921 due to disease and exceptionally bad circumstances that year.

Needless to say, the masses of black and poor white Barbadians were ravaged not only by poverty, hunger, malnutrition, infectious diseases, and primitive housing, but also by totally inadequate or non-existent health care services.

It is only in the 1950s –– after the representatives of the masses had taken control of the Government with the advent of universal suffrage –– that the political leaders of this country began to take truly serious and meaningful steps to provide the masses of Barbadians with proper health care.

And –– fundamentally –– these steps consisted of the radical expansion of public or Government-owned and operated health care facilities, such as our system of polyclinics; the construction of the new, modern, tertiary-care Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH); and the provision of a range of critical health care services to the citizens of Barbados free of cost.

It therefore goes without saying that our state-owned QEH and the provision of taxpayer-supported health care services have been at the very heart of the “health care revolution” that –– over the past 50 years –– has seen Barbados attain “First World” standards of infant mortality (12 deaths per thousand live babies) and life expectancy (75.2 years for males and 80.9 years for females).

Indeed, the experience of the entire world over the past 100 years has demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that the cornerstone of any effective national health care system is the public, state-owned general hospital that provides citizens with a comprehensive range of free (or taxpayer-supported) medical services and facilities under one roof!

There can be absolutely no debate about this –– provided that one is fundamentally concerned about serving human beings and preserving human life, rather than about making money and profits.

I must say that I find it truly appalling that the head of the professional association of our Barbadian doctors is captive to such a socially backward point of view, and I think that BAMP –– as an institution –– is now under a duty to indicate whether Dr Carlos Chase was merely expressing his personal views, or whether he was expressing the official position of BAMP.

For several years now, I have been puzzled by Dr Carlos Chase’s rejection of and open hostility towards young Cuban-trained Barbadian doctors. Now, I think I am beginning to discern the root of his attitude.

I now conclude by issuing a public call to the executive and ordinary members of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners to publicly dissociate themselves from their president’s call for the privatization of the QEH!

(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is president of the Clement Payne Movement.)

10 Responses to Backward idea –– privatizing the QEH

  1. Shanny Livingmylifetothefullest Chandler
    Shanny Livingmylifetothefullest Chandler February 17, 2016 at 10:43 am

    This hospital need a face life and rebuilding

  2. Shane Agard
    Shane Agard February 17, 2016 at 11:18 am

    These statements often highlight how some of our leaders in effect see themselves when the necessary line of comparison is drawn.

    That group, who always seems to have the loudest voice, do not see themselves as a part of the masses anymore and often their loud cries are little more than shameful imitations of the misunderstood mating calls of the elitlists with whom they would gladly join by selling us down the river.

    I believe that long suffering Uncle Tom has not learned, a promise is a comfort to a fool. What we get and keep is what we work for, we cannot keep begging for things that are inalienable rights.

    We have many of our leaders having no clue how the masses are living. And we as a people support them. If every crop over we allow people to say…we can’t be broke look how many jumping…look how many are not.

    But look at almost every messenger – no longer in a small Suzuki Alto. But an SUV. AC free gas/or a token diesel vehicle. Let us make the cuts where they are needed, not so you Mr Leader can continue in your comforts while the fools who had faith in you suffer before your eyes while you justify your need to feel superior.

  3. Mack Clarke
    Mack Clarke February 17, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Not a good idea to privatise the QEH

  4. Kathy Johansen
    Kathy Johansen February 17, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I hope you two never have a serious medical condition Charlie!

  5. jrsmith February 17, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Mr,David Comissiong, you are so full of it, all you have is a back log of crap history ,which is only good , because it was all to the white mans benefit. If Mr, chase was a white man you would dear make these comments, you would go some where and made your comments in a toilet.
    The same comments made about Cuban doctors , is the same comments and issue been discuss by the Westminster parliament…about foreign doctors..

    As a certain businessman said ,people like you ,who try to shout the loudest in Barbados ,is the ones who has never contributed anything to the economy of Barbados.. A white English business woman suggested to the Barbados government early last year , they should consider privatizing a lot of public services..

    Barbados already have a reasonable , private medical infrastructure, I am in my seventies and could remember my parents and family paying for medical attention. Many foreign business men and women , suggest to our failing government ideas as to get the economy moving , but you never ,make comments…stick with your pretty shirts and history…

  6. Nita Holligan
    Nita Holligan February 17, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Could be a good idea if an option was available.

  7. david gibbs February 17, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Criticism of Dr Chase is the easy part. His proposals seems too far right. What we need is an actual sustainable model for financing health care. Notice I said sustainable. Any suggestions Mr. Commissiong?

  8. Tracey Harris
    Tracey Harris February 17, 2016 at 1:21 pm


  9. Dexter Squires
    Dexter Squires February 17, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    It’s a great idea….cause most of the so call workers don’t work..

  10. Amanda Greaves
    Amanda Greaves February 17, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Privitatising it means no more free health what part of that is a good idea ppl cant even afford to eat


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