“The arguments are not about whether we should be thankful for big American mercies, or would be selling Venezuela short by accepting thinly-disguised American political bribes. Instead, they’re more about whether or not Saint Lucians and Caribbean people should take practical advantage of this rare opportunity of an equally rare offer, that those offering haven’t even made equally available to the millions of poor Americans (in America) equally in need of free and urgent medical and health care.”
MY ‘Earl@Large’ TV programme on DBS this past Sunday focused quite a bit on the growing debate here about the US Navy hospital ship ‘USNS Comfort’ coming here from September 23 to October 2 to offer free medical care.
I quoted in full the related official July 29, 2019 statement issued by the US Embassy in Barbados, then went on to offer more information (not provided by the embassy) about what the US Navy and Vice President Mike Pence had to say about the overall primary political objective of the hospital ship’s mission: ‘To help Venezuelans displaced by the Maduro regime…’
Viewers called for and against, reflecting the Saint Lucian society as we know it — with no in-betweens, ifs or buts. Some will accept the free offer, others will reject — and many are still listening before making their minds up.
Frankly, I got what I wanted: a full exchange of views based on fact and not fiction. I welcomed and responded to every call, including one by progressive ‘One Caribbean’ advocate and publisher, veteran journalist Denis DaBreo, who identified himself and accused me of ‘helping spread US propaganda’.
I naturally avoided going into too much of a ding-dong over my indefatigable friend and colleague’s obviously mistaken impression, but it also allowed me to explain my own position.
I said (and still really feel) we should respect the right of individuals to decide whether to accept the offer or not, because if someone has a condition needing attention that he or she cannot afford, or care for which is simply not available here, it cannot be right — and it would be extremely difficult for me, at least — to tell them to reject a free opportunity of being helped, especially if I cannot provide an equal or better immediate alternative.
I said (and still feel too) that with the Ministry of Health indicating the US hospital ship will care for 500 persons daily during its time here, which amounts to thousands of free possibilities for medical care for a multiplicity of conditions, including surgeries), with persons to be accepted on a ‘First come, First served’ basis (without need for appointments) and with the thousands of Saint Lucians needing urgent care that’s unavailable and/or unaffordable, the emphasis should be on ensuring that every available place is taken on each day, to ensure that those who are needy and vulnerable do benefit.
With the Ministry also assuring that local medical practitioners will be working alongside the Americans to ensure local follow-up after the ship sails, most Saint Lucians simply unable to afford overseas medical care, with the commissioning the OKEU Hospital and reconstruction of St Jude Hospital still so far away and Victoria still wobbling on a broomstick to offer basic Nightingale assistance, I really feel all should be done to identify and shepherd the most needy persons possible to all three processing centers over every day of the entire two-week period.
Swimming against the national tide, I suggested the issue should not be seen in partisan political terms, even if the parties have launched their election campaigns. I still truly feel that if anything, the parties should do their best, even without coordination, to ensure needy Saint Lucians of all political stripes and colours, shades and opinions are assisted to take advantage every day of the rare opportunity of at least having their condition examined and attended to in the presence of local doctors with whom they will follow-up after the ship sets sail.
In all of the continuing discussions and exchanges on this issue, though, I was pleasantly reassured of one thing: Sufficient numbers of Saint Lucians have sufficiently politically matured over the years not to be simply blinded into thinking the hospital ship is coming here just because President Trump and/or Vice President Pence suddenly woke-up one morning feeling sorry for us.
The arguments are not about whether we should be thankful for big American mercies, or would be selling Venezuela short by accepting thinly-disguised American political bribes. Instead, they’re more about whether or not Saint Lucians and Caribbean people should take practical advantage of this rare opportunity of an equally rare offer, that those offering haven’t even made equally available to the millions of poor Americans (in America) equally in need of free and urgent medical and health care.
Like I said, I’ve heard of and don’t discount all the conspiracy theories and I can understand those who have decided to reject the government’s invitation to accept the American offer. That’s their choice and agree or not, it must be respected. But I do not think people needing urgent and/or unaffordable medical care should be discouraged from accepting without being offered better.
This is a clear case of militarization or politicization of healthcare in pursuit of America’s multi-sided military, economic and political campaign, including 150 sanctions imposed by President Trump since 2017 to oust the Venezuela Government led by President Nicolas Maduro — and no Saint Lucian I have heard is blind to that.
They know this is not ‘a Red Cross ship’, but a US Navy ship that’s also a floating hospital and on a clear political mission in the Caribbean — and what they’re considering is whether to take personal advantage of a free opportunity for costly medical care, or whether they’ll be paying that political cost in the end.
They will personally decide whether to board the US Navy hospital ship or not on that basis — ample proof, in my mind, of the nourishing of their still-growing but nonetheless healthy levels of political maturity.
Besides, with healthcare already forever politicized here, even its militarization will hardly affect their support for their chosen political party!