The media business can be very rugged terrain at times. Everyone expects us to get them the news, and sometimes those very people who want to use our media organs to get their message out are the same ones who try to block us, stonewall us when it’s time for us to get the job done and we have to go looking into their corridors.
Amandala understands from multiple sources that we are under investigation by authorities at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, because, they allege, we went behind their backs to get a photo of the baby of Cenaida Reymundo and Andy Jones.
The fact of the matter is that the family had contacted our newspaper with their concerns, and it was THEY who wanted their story public. We thank them for coming to us with the confidence that we would render them service. They told us that they had gone to another media house, a radio station, first, but their story was ignored.
When Amandala received the heartrending letter of Andy Jones, detailing the horrid and inexcusable nightmare the family was going through after his young, common-law wife was made to bear her baby alone inside the Punta Gorda Hospital, we felt it important enough to flash a spotlight on the matter in our midweek edition.
The tragedy here is not that Amandala managed to capture a gripping picture of the baby on life support; the tragedy here is that a baby has died, and the family claims that negligence was the cause.
What the health experts should be investigating is not how Amandala was able to get a photo of the baby, but why we had to end up doing the story in the first place.
Could you imagine that on that very Monday night while we were at press and while some people were sleeping in their comfortable king-sized beds, Cenaida was lying, crouched in a fetal position, on two chairs she had turned to face each other because no bed was provided for her?
Yes, this is another thing the KHMH should be feverishly investigating. Why was this woman – a human being already suffering, not offered a proper bed to sleep in? Why was she forced to make her bed on two cold chairs? This should not be happening in Belize, where government offices blast air conditioners all day and where administrators drive fancy SUV’s. It’s just not acceptable.
It is not acceptable that a mother did not experience the CARE in healthcare, which is a right, not a privilege, for all Belizeans, no matter how deep or shallow their pockets.
We know that the Director of Health Services has promised to investigate, but we ardently hope that at the same time, there is no attempt to cover up the facts of Baby Jones’s death and that steps are taken to ensure this tragedy does not befall another family.
While some people try to excoriate Amandala for trying to get our job done and for going the extra mile to do it, we implore those in positions of authority to take the case of Baby Jones very, very seriously.
What is clear is that Belizeans are tired of getting second and third rate services, while being required to pay first rate taxes.
For a child to die in the first week of life without having had a fighting chance is an unspeakable tragedy – a tragedy that must command as immediate an attention as the swine flu threat. When the same health authorities that depend on the media to be at their beck and call to disseminate information on the swine flu, will allow hospital administrations to institute a press blackout (or maybe just an Amandala blackout) for a story of such public importance, we have to wonder what their motives really are.
We understand that Cenaida was forced to sign a media consent form on Wednesday, to say that she gave Channel 7 permission to interview her and get footage, or take photos - a media consent form that was never offered to her for Amandala, when we tried to get our job done on Monday, when we were apprised of the story.
Our reporter, Rowland Parks, was flatly denied access, despite the fact that the family gave us consent and told those standing guard at the hospital that they wanted us to go in and take the baby’s photo.
Yet it is our newspaper that is under investigation? Evidently, someone has too much free time on their hands.
By the way, we cannot close without decrying the report that the South of Belize did not have a ventilator for the baby and he had to wait in line for days before he could get one.
So Mr. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, please resurrect your demands for the Belize Bank to return the $20 million Taiwan money Said Musa gave to pay off the debt of Universal Health Services. They claimed that the money was given to Belize for “improvement of the healthcare system,” and there is no denying that some real improvements are needed. How many more lives must hang in the balance before something effective is done?
We think that it is high time for that money to be channeled into the public healthcare system, but we caution that you can’t put water in a leaky bucket and expect it to stay in there. The holes have to be plugged. So the message here is that the Government, and particularly the Minister of Health, has to ensure that the “health reform” we have been hearing about for eons really materializes in a manner that will benefit the poor; that there is a renewed effort to bolster the morale of public healthcare workers so they learn to care more about their jobs; to weed out the rotten bananas so they don’t spoil the whole bunch; and to most of all, beat it into the heads of all those who take up the responsibility to serve in the medical profession that each and every life is important – whether it be a homeless man off the street dying from AIDS, a politician injured in a road traffic accident, or a pregnant mother living on the banks of the Moho River.
“A woman when she is in labor has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world,” says John 16: 21.
Cenaida never experienced the joy foretold in God’s plans, because something went awry in the very system that was supposed to protect her and her baby, and while we can finger individuals who might have failed to do their jobs, the fact that her suffering was magnified at different health facilities over a span of seven days sends a clear signal that the problem is not merely the inaction of one or two persons, or the unavailability of a machine, or even the lack of “care” inside the health facilities – the problem is an inefficient system that appears as sick as the patients it is there to serve.
Millions have been spent on so-called improvements in public health, and the latest initiative to be unveiled was one where Belize blazed a trail to implement a computerized health information system. But these data-filled computers don’t save lives and can’t do a thing for a patient critical and in need of life support. The people in the system are the ones who are supposed to make it work.
We’ve gone one step forward and two steps back, and it is amazing that some people can still sleep soundly at night while others remain haunted by nightmares! We want to know how they do it – those who have hoarded the millions that were supposed to give Baby Jones a better chance at survival, and those power brokers who lie on their backs, tolerating the crap. We want to know how the hell they sleep at night, while more and more Belizeans continue to be casualties of this crisis.
And it is Amandala they have time to investigate? Bull-crap!