The years of violent commotion linked to the English-speaking Caribbean's largest hospital — the Kingston Public - in the heart of West Kingston has subsided, what with the now lifted state of emergency and the zones of special operations in place.
These security measures have, by and large, restricted the movement of gunmen who often intimidate health workers at the institution, and pose a threat to injured criminals under police guard.
Although security restrictions in some areas of the Corporate Area have been lifted, the situation is not expected to return to the days when doctors, nurse and other hospital employees were running like frightened rabbits in a bid to protect themselves.
One doctor who served at the KPH for several years, and who still does part-time work at the institution remembers, in clear terms, the stress that health workers were put under, especially when warring political factions were going at each other.
“You would be at the doctor's quarters, for example, and there are nights when you are called out to work in very challenging conditions. There are many nights and evenings when you are there and you are called to go over and you are afraid to go over, because of the amount of gunshots you hear. From behind where you stay at KPH, over into the wards, the shots keep hitting the walls. Sometimes you can actually see the fire in the air. So doctors were afraid to go over.
“The experience I had was after late duty one night, I was going towards the car park. There were not many security guards and you just hear gunshots firing 'blow, blow, blow', right in the car park. I had to rush in and stay overnight in the operating theatre until the next morning to go home safely,” said the medical doctor.
As bad as that was, another doctor spoke of the danger that she faced when wounded gangsters are on the wards, or prisoners are under police guard.
“I have experienced instances where you have men whose cronies are on the ward under police guard and you only get a call from the police whereby they tell you to be careful. The men are trying to come and snatch this particular inmate who is a patient at the hospital, and you have to call the police for backup. This happened several times … men coming to move their cronies.
“Sometimes the police themselves get intelligence. We have had the experience where sometimes you are there and you get reports from the men on the ground who live in the communities, that this man was a member of one gang, and the other gang members are coming for him,.
So it's either you move him to another hospital or ask for additional backup. The staff gets very jumpy, especially the nurses, when they hear, because usually, especially at the KPH, you get the feedback from the ground because quite a few of the people who work there live in some of the troubled communities.”
But one of the main concerns of yet another physician is the role played by certain politicians who would openly visit the wards to look for certain gangsters, no matter if they are under police guard or not.
“I have seen politicians who would turn up at the wards to regularly visit known gunmen who police have handcuffed. These guys have had cases where men who are on death row would come and outline how him shoot the man and him never mean to kill the man. He would give a detailed story….'like bway Doc, this man trouble me breda you nuh, so me go fi me gun an shoot him and when me realise it, me kill the man, but me never mean fi kill him'.”
And even doctors too, are made offers that they, for the most part, have been forced to refuse.
“You had a man who came to me one day and said to me: 'Doc, me know say you waist empty. Me can gi you a gun you nuh'.
“These are the guys who see a need to protect you, the doctor, because of how well you treat them when they are on the ward. They always show an interest in protecting you, but the way they suggested, that of getting illegal guns to give doctors, is something even the most ill-advised doctor would refuse,” the medical practitioner said.
“For some people, because KPH is divided into political communities, they offer 'safe passage' through the hospital. At KPH you couldn't close all the gates. Those days you had to allow some workers to pass through certain gates, because if they exited through the main gates, it would have put pressure on their lives. So they had to walk through those gates in order to go home,” the doctor continued.
SOURCE: Jamaica Observer