What a dreadful shame

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The word coming from Clarevue, the nation’s lone psychiatric facility, is that things are worse, much worse, than at first thought. Seems, those in high places have turned their backs on those who are struggling with their mental health, and a serious lack of care now rules the day.

Of course, the absolutely horrendous conditions under which the staff have been forced to work – several months of owed overtime, no Covid stipend as promised, and a shocking lack of security, is a shameful indictment of those in high places. Moreover, the ugly neglect being endured by the struggling patients speaks volumes as to the uncaring nature of this pathetic administration. A famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi declares, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members,” and it is apparent that this administration has flunked the empathy and the caring test in a big way.

Consider. A psychiatric facility is one that should have extremely secure premises. After all, patients can pose a threat to themselves and to others, on the outside, and on the within. They can wander off if there is a breach in the perimeter fence. According to reports, our facility has a broken fence, and whosoever will may now enter or leave at their whim and fancy. Of course, miscreants from the outside could seize this security lapse to take advantage of the highly vulnerable patients, especially the women. This ought to be cause for concern, but sadly, with this administration, it is not.

Clarevue is eighty-seven years old. It was built in 1929 to accommodate patients who were relocated from the old psychiatric facility on Rat Island. That facility was built in 1841. The time has manifestly come for an upgrade at Clarevue, and in recognition of that fact, here is what our good Minister of Health had to say in May of last year, “Like Holberton [Hospital] not being a purpose-built facility for secondary and tertiary care for its individuals, so is the Clarevue Hospital not a purpose-built facility. I have, in the last few weeks, discussed it with some senior members within my ministry and I have asked them to arrange to visit a purpose-built facility, preferably in the US, because they are quite advanced, take an architect and an engineer to see how a purpose-built mental health facility infrastructure is established. This to me is on the top of my priority and it has always been . . . When I reflected, back in 1998 I made that appeal and this is 2021, so you can see the level of urgency . . . What I noticed when I assumed the position of Minister of Health is that the whole issue of public health had a segregation between the MSJMC healthcare and mental health; I thought that was wrong. Public health involves all human health including mental health as well, and so I made this public appeal because I am expecting that the government would respond with some level of urgency. We need to address the issue of establishing an appropriate infrastructure.” [The Daily Observer, May 20, 2021] Sigh! Talk about rosy promises that never amount to much!

Mind you, the good Minister’s failed promise was delivered a year after staff at the embattled facility went on strike for several weeks in protest at the horrid conditions under which they were forced to work. But such is life under this administration.

Shop Steward, Ava Bowen, a dedicated Clarevue worker who spoke quite passionately, her voice quivering, on yesterday’s BIG STORIES lunchtime newscast, lamented: “We work through the pandemic to endure the patients’ safety and health, and we deserve our Covid stipend; also, we have not been paid overtime from since 2016, they have persons that have not receive any overtime money. At the moment, these are our fears; we are not getting no answers; every day questions are asked, and nothing! NOTHING! We are dedicated workers, we are in a lot of trouble, actually everyday with our patients; we take care of them during the pandemic . . . This is year go and year come, we don’t have proper lighting, and at nights, the place is in darkness . . . You can imagine that they have an old building behind there, we don’t even know for how long, two persons just take residence there, finally we happen to catch one person last week, and to get him, we had to call a team to try and manage him, and he had about an eight-inch scissors, prior to that, he go to stab-up a male officer and a storesman, because he keeps bringing drugs and liquor and cigarettes to the patients, because we have no control;  . . . At nights, security can’t patrol, you see how long is the compound, to walk in the dark there behind? It can’t happen . . . At present, we have ONE washing machine in the laundry working, . . . and the patients’ clothes? The water is not good, you don’t want to see the sheets, they are very brown from the water that is coming in . . . the low voltage . . . even to that, we keep asking for a generator because we have medication in the fridge, and when the power goes, well. you know what happens . . . .” Sigh! Bowen’s entreaty was enough to bring tears to the eyes of our listeners.

Which beggars the question: how could the health authorities be so very neglectful? Have they no empathy? Especially since many of us are not far removed from someone who is suffering? How do they sleep at nights, knowing that many of our very vulnerable citizens are living in squalor, under insecure conditions, often times in the dark, at the mercy of a disturbed individual, or a predator from the outside? Where is the humanity? Where is that milk of human kindness? According to Maya Forbes, a noted American screenwriter whose father suffered a series of manic breakdowns, “The people I know who suffer from mental illness, oft times they do connect you to what it is to be really human. There’s a vulnerability there . . .”  

We feel their pain and hurt. We are ‘touched with the feelings of their infirmity.’ At least, we ought to be. The workers at Clarevue are worthy of their hire. Please make them whole, oh, thou of a high place. The residents at Clarevue are a part of us. Let us do right by them.

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