Poor people Ha Fi Go Dead!

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.


bustamante-children-hospital-kingston-jamaicaA dat mi housekeeper Annie seh when mi tell her how much fi di lab test weh her son ha fi do: $22,000! She no mek dat fi di whole week. Di pikni dida go a Children’s Hospital an she never ha fi pay fi none a di test dem. Dat a up to when im a 12. Last year, im turn 13. Ascorden to Children’s Hospital, im a big smaddy now. So dem done wid im.

Im start go a Spanish Town Hospital. Im have kidney problem from im born. An a plenty sufferation di poor lickle pikni go through. Wen im a two month old, dem operate pon im. An a so im an im mada a fight life so til im a go high school now.

Di last time im go hospital, dem gi Annie paper fi tek go a Public fi do sinting fi mek im vein dem open up. Through she ha fi work, she aks her friend fi go get one appointment. Dem tell her seh Annie ha fi come. When she go, dem tell her seh di pikni ha fi come too so dem can look pan im vein before dem gi im appointment fi du wa dem a fi do. So she go back wid him one next day.

Annie work wid mi two day fi di week an dat a did one a fi mi day dem. She go a Public early di morning fi see if she coulda get through an still come a work. Lickle before 11, she call fi seh all now dem no see no doctor. So mi aks her fi mek mi talk to di smaddy weh in charge. She never bodder wid mi. She go talk fi harself.

She tell mi seh di doctor weh fi see di pikni deh inna theatre. If she never go aks, she woulda never find out. Anyhow, one next doctor gi her paper fi go a Apex lab pon Molynes Road fi do di said same test weh dem shoulda do a Public. Im never even look pon di pikni.


By dis time, it never mek sense fi Annie bodder come a work. She just go straight a Apex. Dem seh dem no do dat deh test an dem send her to one next Apex pon Winchester Road. Di next week, she go after she lef work. Dem tell her seh dat deh section close 4 o’clock pon Friday.

She go back di next week. Dem tell her seh dem no do dat deh test. She fi go a Oxford Medical. Unu see how much time a waste a go up an dung fi nutten! Not to mention bus fare! Wen mi hear di story, mi tell Annie seh mi a go call Oxford Medical fi mek sure dem do di test.

Well, wen mi look pon di paper, mi couldn’t mek out nutten weh di doctor write. A pure crab toe. Wa mek? Power! Fi mek wi know seh doctor know more dan wi. An wi dis ha fi sop it. Plenty a dem doctor tek Hypocritical Oath, not Hippocratic. Dem love money more dan people. No bodder mek mi start pon dem.

Mi tek picture a di paper an email it to Oxford Medical. Dem know how fi read crab toe. A fi dem bizniz dat. An dem do di test. But koo pon di price! Weh Annie fi get dat deh money? Wi ha fi do plenty better wid health care inna dis ya country.

Pikni age not suppose fi stop a 12. Dat no right. An wi done know seh Govament can’t afford fi gi everybody free health care. A pure politics mek dem mash up di system. Who can pay suppose fi pay. An who can’t pay suppose fi get help. Poor people can’t just dead so fi nutten.


A dat mi ouskiipa Annie se wen mi tel ar omoch fi di lab tes we ar son a fi du: $22,000! Shi no mek dat fi di uol wiik! Di pikni dida go a Children’s Hospital an she neva a fi pie fi non a di tes dem. Dat a op tu wen im a 12. Laas ier, im ton tortiin. Azkaadn tu Children’s Hospital, im a big smadi nou. So dem don wid im.

Im staat go a Spanish Town Hospital. Im av kidni prablem fram im baan. An a plenti sofarieshan di puor likl pikni go chruu. Wen im a tuu mont uol, dem apariet pan im. An a so im an im mada a fait laif so til im a go a ai skuul nou.

Di laas taim im go aaspital, dem gi Annie piepa fi tek go a Public fi du sinting fi mek im vien dem opn op. Chruu shi a fi wok, shi aks ar fren fi go get wan apaintment. Dem tel ar se Annie a fi kom. Wen shi go, dem tel ar se di pikni a fi kom tu so dem kyan luk pan im vien bifuor dem gi im apaintment fi du wa dem a fi du. So shi go bak wid im wan neks die.

Annie wok wid mi tuu die fi di wiik an dat a did wan a fi mi die dem. Shi go a Public orli di maanin fi si if shi kuda get chruu an stil kom a wok. Likl bifuor 11, shi kaal fi se aal nuo dem no si no dakta.So mi aks ar fi mek mi taak tu di smadi we in chaaj. Shi neva bada wid mi. Shi go taak fi arself.

Shi tel mi se di dakta we fi si di pikni de ina tieta. If shi neva go aks, shi wuda neva fain out. Eniou, wan neks dakta gi ar piepa fi go a Apex lab pan Molynes Ruod fi du di sed siem test we dem shuda du a Public. Im neva iivn luk pan di pikni.


Bai dis taim, it neva mek sens fi Annie bada kom a wok. Shi jos go striet a Apex. Dem se dem no du dat de tes an dem sen a tu wan nex Apex pan Winchester Ruod. Di neks wiik, shi go aafta shi lef wok. Dem tel ar se dat de sekshan kluoz 4 aklak pan Fraide.

Shi go bak di neks wiik. Dem tel ar se dem no du dat de tes. Shi fi go a Oxford Medical. Unu si omoch taim a wies a go op an dong fi notn! Nat tu menshan bos fier! Wen mi ier di stuori, mi tel Annie se mi a go kaal Oxford Medical fi mek shuor dem du di tes.

hypocriteWel, wen mi luk pan di piepa, mi kudn mek out notn we di dakta rait. A pyuur krab tuo. Wa mek? Powa! Fi mek wi nuo se dakta nuo muor dan wi. An wi dis a fi sop it. Plenti a dem dakta tek Hypocritical Oath, nat Hippocratic. Dem lov moni muor dan piipl. No bada mek mi staat pan dem.

Mi tek pikcha a di piepa an iimiel it tu Oxford Medical. Dem nuo ou fi riid krab tuo. A fi dem bizniz dat. An dem du di test. Bot ku pan di prais! We Annie fi get dat de moni? Wi a fi du plenti beta wid elt kier ina dis ya konchri.

Pikni iej nat sopuoz fi stap a 12. Dat no rait. An wi don nuo se Govament kyaahn afuod fi gi evribadi frii elt kier. A pyuur palitiks mek dem mash op di sistim. Uu kyan pie supuoz fi pie. An uu kyaahn pie supuoz fi get elp. Puor piipl kyaahn jos ded so fi notn.



That’s what my housekeeper Annie said when I told her the cost of the lab test her son has to do: $22,000! She doesn’t make that much in a week. The child used to to go to the Children’s Hospital and she didn’t have to pay for any of the tests. That was up to when he was 12. Last year, he turned 13. According to the mandate of the Children’s Hospital, he’s now an adult. So that’s it.

He started to go to the Spanish Town Hospital. He’s had  kidney problems from birth. And that poor child has suffered so much.   When he was two months’ old, he had to have an operation. And he and his mother have been fighting against the odds.  He’s now in  high school.

The last time he visited the hospital, Annie was referred to the Public Hospital to do a procedure to open up his veins. Because she has to work, she asked a friend to go and make an appointment. She was told that Annie herself had to come. When she did go, she was told that the child also had to come so they could examine his veins before giving him an appointment to do the procedure. So she went back with him another day.

Annie works with me two days each week and that was one of the days she should have come to work.  She went to Public early that morning, hoping to get through in time to still come a work. A little before 11, she called to let me know that she still hadn’t seen a doctor. So I asked her to let me speak with  the person in charge. She didn’t  bother with me. She went and spoke up for  herself.

She told me that the doctor who was supposed to examine the child was in theatre. If she hadn’t asked, she wouldn’t have known. Anyhow, another doctor gave her a referral to Apex lab on Molynes Road to do the very same test that should have been done at Public.  And he didn’t even examine the child.


By this time, it didn’t make sense for Annie to come to work. She just went straight to Apex. She was told that they don’t do the test there and she was sent to the Winchester Road lab. The following week, she went after work.  She was told that that section closes at 4 o’clock on Fridays.

She went back the following week. They told her that they don’t do the test and sent her Oxford Medical. You see how much time was wasted going up and down all for nothing! Not to mention bus fare! When I heard the story, I told Annie that I was going to call Oxford Medical to make sure they do the test.

hippocratic-oathWell, when I looked at the form, I  couldn’t make out anything the doctor had written. It was pure crab toe. Why? Power! To let us know that  doctors know more than we do. And we just have to  put up with it.  A lot of those doctors have taken the Hypocritical Oath, not Hippocratic. They love money more than people. Don’t let me start on them.

I took a picture of the form and emailed it to Oxford Medical. They know how to read crab toe. They’re in that business. And they do the test. But look at the price! How can Annie afford that?  We have to do much, much better with health care in this country.

Children shouldn’t be cut off  at age 12. That’s not right. And we know that the Government can’t afford to give everybody free health care. It’s nothing but politics that made them dismantle the system we had.   Who can afford to pay should pay.   And those who can’t should get assistance. Poor people can’t just die like that for nothing.


Dr Ferguson’s premature ejaculation

unnamedI’m no Mark Wignall. But I’m predicting that if the prime minister does not immediately fire her minister of health, the PNP will soon be voted out of office. In his column published last Thursday, Wignall prophesied, “It is more likelihood than possibility that after the next election, the people of this country will still get to call Portia our prime minister.”

It depends on what she does about Dr Fenton Ferguson. The ill-fated dentist is an ominous symbol of all that is wrong with the present PNP government: incompetent, arrogant, stubborn, hard-ears. Why is Fenton Ferguson still minister of health? After all of his errors of judgement and his repeated failure to protect the health of the nation! Why is the prime minister still upholding him?

Last Wednesday, one of my friends asked if I’d heard what Ferguson said about the dead babies. My cynical answer was, “That is not him did kill them?” I cannot forget the prime minister’s ill-considered response to repeated calls for the removal of Jennifer Edwards from her post as executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority.

As the fires raged at the Riverton dump, this is what the prime minister said in a bumbling interview on CVM TV: “I’m sure she wouldn’t set the fire. If she had set the fire, she would be gone! But I’m sure because she wasn’t there; she was nowhere near there until when they heard that the place was on fire. So I don’t know why anyone would be calling for her head to roll.”


Wayne-J-Chikungunya-Well, Fenton Ferguson has definitely set several fires and his head has not rolled. The most deadly conflagration was his mishandling of the chik-V epidemic. No notice given to unsuspecting victims about the impending disaster, despite the many warnings issued by the Pan American Health Organization. Total denial of the true scale of the epidemic. And no serious attempt to count all the deaths resulting from the impact of chik-V on chronic illnesses.

Refusing to listen to the clamour of voices demanding the resignation of the minister of health, the prime minister unilaterally declared that Dr Ferguson had done nothing wrong. But what he had done right? Given the widespread trauma caused by the chik-V epidemic, Ferguson himself should have had the decency to resign. But he knew he had the backing of his prime minister.

I wonder if this is how she justified her decision to stand by him: I’m sure my minister of health is not a mosquito. And he did not bite anybody. If he had bitten anybody, he would be gone! But I’m sure because he wasn’t there; he was nowhere near where people were getting bitten. And he even wanted an infected mosquito to bite him, so he could feel the pain of those who had been batter-bruised by chik-V. So I don’t know why anyone would be calling for his head to roll.


tiny-hand-of-premature-babyDr Ferguson has now set off another firestorm with his incomprehensible ejaculation that premature babies are “not babies in the real sense”. I use the word ejaculation here to mean something said hastily without any thought. Not the act of discharging semen.

But Dr Ferguson was addressing Parliament. He should not have been ejaculating. He ought to have carefully considered his words. I know that Dr Ferguson is neither an obstetrician nor a gynaecologist. He’s a dentist. He’s an expert on the oral cavity. So he really should be much more cautious about how he opens his mouth. The discharge can be nastily explosive.

The minister’s lunatic claim that premature babies are “not babies in the real sense” is a reckless attempt to evade responsibility for the disgraceful condition of our hospitals. His cowardly line of defence is to blame the innocent victims. It’s the babies who caused their own death. It is true that the compromised immune system of premature babies makes them vulnerable to disease. But this is precisely why they need to be given high-quality medical care.


Dr Ferguson’s apology for his public ejaculation is an insult to the intelligence of the Jamaican people. He simply repeats the fact that premature babies are susceptible to infection. But he admits no responsibility for the failure of the hospital system to protect these babies. It’s business as usual, masquerading as an apology.

And, what is even worse, all that the prime minister expects of Dr Ferguson is this: “I hope that the Ministry of Health and the minister will look at the present system to see what needs to be done to ensure that what happened will never, ever happen again.” Another excuse for failure.

imagesLast Sunday, after witnessing the brilliant trial of Governor Eyre in Morant Bay, I set out for Bath Fountain. On the way, I passed Dr Ferguson’s constituency office. And I had a revelation. The minister of health has survived disaster after disaster because he has access to a regular supply of ‘oil of Portia can’t fire me’.

Fun and joke aside, no oil from St Thomas is more powerful than the collective will of the Jamaican people. In theory, we have the right to choose our leaders. We can vote. But for who? The real tragedy of our times is that our politicians are certainly not public servants in the real sense.