Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.
So I said to myself, “What a wonderful world we live in!” a propos nothing at all except in appreciation of our parliamentary system and the wonderful people who occupy its Chambers! I mean, how terrible it would be to live in a country where politicians abused the privileges of the House to defame and accuse private citizens who have no recourse in Law. “Thank the Good Shepherd that we do not live in Dominica!” I went on to think. Apparently, a doctor in Dominica is living in fear for his life after comments in parliament by prime minister Skerrit and health minister Timothy about Dr. Irving Pascal, also known as Eipigh, who commented, “The prime minister is the most powerful man in Dominica, so when a threat is issued on my well-being for no obvious reason that I am aware of, I take that seriously.”
In an article entitled “Delivery of quality health services in Dominica on a slippery slope.” Dr. Pascal had expressed “grave concerns for the future delivery of health care services in Dominica” because of “the less than inspirational management of both the Chikungunya epidemic and the Marigot Hospital.” Again, I thought to myself, how fortunate we are to have, in Saint Lucia, a well-functioning public health service and no hospital scandals similar to those that beset hospitals in Dominica, and no politicians who take criticism personally.
Speaking in parliament, Skerrit had taken aim at the doctor for criticizing Dominica’s health system. The official transcript reproduces P.M. Skerrit’s English in all its glory: “I find it strange that a doctor who works here, I see him criticizing the hospital management,” he said. “You are the one paid by the taxpayers to give better health care, so if you are criticizing the ministry of health or the hospital, you must hold yourself responsible. Eipigh… these are guys, the taxpayer paying them and they out in Anguilla and Monsterrat working while we paying them. That is the problem, madam speaker.”
For reasons not quite apparent, the prime minister went on to say that anyone who supports the opposition United Workers Party is “a dishonest person” and “a bunch of modern day pirates” who have no interest in Dominica. He then went on to name the doctor by his familiar name, again using his impeccably poor English: “So if is talk they want to talk, let us talk. And they come there speaking with a stethoscope and so on, Dr. Eipigh and so on. Eipigh doesn’t want me to talk about Eipigh, you know because at the time, just now, we will have time, we will have time, because these guys have no interest in people, they have no interest in Dominica, just themselves. It is not fair to the people of Dominica, madam speaker.” Health minister, Julius Timothy chipped in, “There are those who are so full of themselves, madam speaker, who criticize in the papers. We will go on without them.”
Dr. Pascal, a.k.a. Eipigh, reported that no one in authority had called to reprimand him for what he had written in the newspapers. “I sign all my articles Dr. Irving Eipigh Pascal. I critique the health system in which I work that I should know something about, and my concern about it is that nobody, not the Prime Minister, not the Chief Medical Officer, not the PS has ever called me to reprimand me.” Despite the P.M.’s articulated – for want of a better word – assertions, Dr. Pascal has not worked in Anguilla “for a while” and has never worked in Montserrat. “I take my vacation leave and when I’m supposed to be resting, I go and work,” he remarked.
Lennox Linton, leader of the United Workers Party, warned Pascal to “be careful with the P.M. – This is a dangerous man, a man who somehow is able to take advantage of the people of Dominica. He is able to savage them, is able to set them aside and emerge as though it is not the people he that has disadvantaged, that he has savaged that are suffering, it is he who must get the sympathy for the evil that he is doing.”
Specialist medical officers (SMOs) at the island’s biggest hospital, the Princess Margaret Hospital, say they are “alarmed” at Skerrit’s accusations and have pointed out that it is accepted practice that SMOs travel to other islands to provide their specialist services. “The perception conveyed that they leave island while they neglect their duties at the Princess Margaret Hospital is erroneous. SMOs are entitled to utilize their vacation leave to engage in any activity of their choice including working overseas.” The SMOs further pointed out that Dominicans benefit from the expertise of SMOs “from other islands who are often contracted and paid by the Ministry of Health, Government of Dominica to provide their specialist services in Dominica. The limited number of specialist medical officers available to the governments of the islands make this practice necessary and acceptable,” the statement said. “We believe that this is consistent with the principles of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).”
So be grateful, Saint Lucians, that our politicians, without rancor or spite, refuse to abuse their privileged positions in order to attack private citizens from the House.