Editorial: The moral test of government

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Today, we will be referencing the words of Hubert Horatio Humphrey Jr.  If the name is not familiar, then you should know that he served as the 38th Vice President of the United States under President Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) from 1965 to 1969. As with many vice-presidents, Humphrey was overshadowed by the larger-than-life character of LBJ, but he was no slouch as a politician and his political life demonstrated the complexities of the man. 
Among his achievements was his proposal on ending racial segregation being included in the party platform at the Democratic National Convention in 1948, where he famously suggested that the Democratic Party “walk into the sunshine of human rights.”  As well, he is considered the lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Knowing something of Humphrey allows a better understanding of a quote from one of his last speeches.  He said, “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Humphrey’s words came to mind as we heard the welcome news that the government had revealed plans to relocate the male residents of the Fiennes Institute to the Margetson Ward on the compound of the former Holberton Hospital as it undertakes rehabilitation work at the Institute. Health
Minister Molwyn Joseph provided the update, some five months after he disclosed that some of the structures at Fiennes were “inadequate”. 
The minister further said that plans are in place to convert the government-run home for the elderly into a “modern purpose-built facility”.  In describing the present situation and the future plans, the minister said, “Two of the buildings that house the male residents of Fiennes are in serious disrepair; the Cabinet has authorised the Ministry of Health to move ahead with the rehabilitation.”
This is great news.  For too long we have heard of the challenges at the Fiennes Institute.  The administration, care-givers and families have all come forward, at one time or another, to inform the public of the conditions and the lack of a plan or action to correct the ills of the facility.  It must come as significant relief to everyone associated with the facility to know that something is actually being done.
We already know that some people will criticise us of ‘foolishly’ praising the government for doing what they should be doing, but we are okay with that.  Considering that the Fiennes Institute has suffered neglect for so long and that patients and caregivers have been faced with endless challenges, we are happy to dole out praise for action after too many years of inaction.  And that is where we will leave the politically inspired negativity.
We purposely made mention of the former US Vice-President because he demonstrated that politics should play no influence when it comes to caring for our most vulnerable. We will all fall into one or more of the categories that Humphrey referenced in his speech, so if for no other reason than a selfish one, we should ensure that facilities are in place to make our life comfortable should we require care.
If we are allowed to stray off topic for a moment, we would like to ask, what are the plans for the old Holberton Hospital location? We know that the St John Hospice occupies the Gwyneth O’Reilly Building but the location is prime (and serene), and it would be good to see it used for more health-related services.  Is there a master plan?
By the way, the St John Hospice is another institution that always needs support, and we will shamelessly use this feel-good moment to make an appeal on their behalf. The non-profit hospice provides extremely important and needed palliative care for the terminally ill.  As stated in its mission, the hospice is there “To give people who are terminally ill the opportunity to die with dignity and compassion in tranquil environment, cared for by professionally trained staff.”
Back to the topic at hand, we would also like to say that we smiled when we saw that the rehabilitation of Fiennes will include the use of prisoners in the gutting stages. We think that it is good that the prisoners pay their debt to society by participating in the facility’s rehabilitation and we hope that they will take satisfaction in the work that they do, as it will help with their personal rehabilitation. 
All in all, we welcome the news about Fiennes and we wish for the successful rehabilitation of the facility and our prisoners.  This single project brings us one step closer to being that caring society that we all hope for.

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