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Category: Trinidad Politics 12 Jul 15

Leon Trostsky once reportedly told CLR James (and if you donít know who he is, look him up) we ought to have streets and statues named after James, so vital was he to who we are today that spectator sport was a substitute for political action.

So we are gearing up for election on September 7. So what is at stake? Do we know what the issues are? Do we care? Or are we gearing up for the spectator sport? Are we going to vote for someone because they look like us or because we respect him or her? Are we educated enough to know the difference? Will we lap up the propaganda of the imported spin doctors and giveaways sponsored by companies hoping to get Ďwukí once the person they support is elected, or are we smart enough to know that an election is not about a spectacle but about the quality of our life. What does each party including The Third Force offer?

Are you going to vote for someone because they are of your race? Or are we going to grow up and demand that candidates treat us with respect? If we use the British elections as a reasonable template for elections, for a working democracy, we can take some cues from them. The Sun which is considered the most right wing tabloid of British papers, a paper that some believe caters to the lowest common denominator, demonstrates that the British public has an expectation of performance from their politicians that we canít even dream of.

Just before their May 7 elections, this tabloid paper published a double-page spread outlining the issues the British really cared about. Was it about who thief what, about who want to put who in court, about this vote of no confidence, about who is Indian and African and white?

No, it was Issues. 1. The Economy. 2. Immigration and Europe. 3. National Health Service. 4. Security and Defence. 5. Education. 6. Energy and Environment. 7. Crime and Justice. 8. Housing. 9. Foreign Aid. 10. Britishness. 11. Freedom of the Press.

If we had to adapt it to ourselves, I would add 11. Oil dependency 12. Make-work dependency 13. Crime 14. The drug trade and gun control. 15. Plummeting transparency index. (readómore corruption)

The first thing we have to do is tell ourselves we are not going to treat our nation as a spectator sport. That allows us to ask questions and ask for accountability.

I want to get the ball rolling. I know that crime and corruption are meaty subjects, but healthcare affects us all. We are among the most obese nations in the world, with among the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Thatís mostly because we are ignorant of how to eat nutritious meals.

We are ignorant because some 400,000 of us (thatís a conservative number) are functionally illiterate because our education system does not give teachers respect, training or wages according to the value they provide to our society. We are also ignorant because the Government uses its stations to air propaganda rather than educational programmes.

They misuse funds so that instead of having billboards telling people how to practice preventive health, they pay chutney dancers and soca singers to do nonsense during Carnival. Yes, go figure.

In the run-up to the September 7 election, I have some questions for the Minister of Health. 1. What is the state of public healthcare in T&T in general? 2. What are some of the key problems facing health professionals? 3. In your opinion, what changes has the health minister made to improve or worsen the situation? 4. What are some of the most common health issues facing the people of T&T based on the patients who access healthcare? 5. Do doctors, in your opinion, follow a code of ethics? 6. Is there a bill of rights for patients? Are they aware of these rights? 7. It is understood by the public that doctors rarely testify against their colleagues in cases of malpractice and this prevents patients from taking legal action. Is this a correct perception? 8. How do the medical board and medical association elevate medicine? 9. Do you think medical professionals (senior) have enough of a say in the manner funds are used in healthcare? 10. There are reports that interns are poorly paid, that conditions at the San Fernando General Hospital and POS hospital are appallingóreports of cockroaches, lack of beds, poor nursing care. To what extent is this true? 11. What is your opinion on doctors who work in public health but also have private practices. Is this ethical? For instance, a patient who is put on a waiting list for a heart or kidney operation can be given the option by a public healthcare doctor to get it done quickly in private care. Is this a kind of hostage taking?

I would be grateful for a response from any health professional at any level, from the Minister of Health to cleaners working in public healthcare. I would encourage you, the reader, to ask your own based on your experiences. If we want spectacle, letís go to the cinema. If we want our lives changed, letís start asking some questions and demanding answers.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur