Our Readers' Opinions
September 28, 2007

Patients are not vagrants!


EDITOR: I listened with dismay to a popular morning radio program as the host referred to patients at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital as “vagrants”. I wish to inform the general public that individuals receiving care at the named institution or at any healthcare facility in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are not vagrants; they are patients, regardless of their social and or economic status, regardless of the circumstances under which they are hospitalized.{{more}} The radio host presented the case as though a person or persons return patients of low social status to the hospital after they have been discharged. This is incorrect information.

These are the facts. There are patients at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital who have been abandoned by relatives. The following statements are made by relatives when they are informed that their “loved ones” are to be discharged: the house is under repair; there is no one at home to take care of the patient; I am too sick/I have back problems I cannot take care of him/her; it will be too stressful for me, I cannot manage him/her at home; every body in the house working; hospital have nurses and doctors, we don’t have any at home.

The talk show host made the call for hospital authorities to virtually kick these patients out on the streets. Reference to these patients as vagrants further robs them of the dignity that should be bestowed on all human kind. It is not impossible for any of us to be in the same situation. Today we are strong and gainfully employed. We are social elites. But a debilitating illness or road traffic accident or any act of violence can place any one in the same situation. We will be taken to the hospital by relatives, but when they learn that due to the condition, whatever that may be, we are now totally dependant, they, too, can abandon us. If this happens, would we want to be referred to as vagrants? Would we want to be dumped in the streets?

It is not a policy of the Ministry of Health and the Environment to “throw” on the streets any one who finds himself or herself homeless upon discharge, or those who may have been homeless before admission. Their continued stay until alternate arrangements can be made is an act of compassion. Often, healthcare workers are accused of lack of compassion; this is a demonstration of love, compassion and concern for human lives. Individuals who advocate otherwise are cold and heartless. The talk show host and those who support his call should use the opportunity to promote love and compassion, not segregation, discrimination and cruelty based on social status.

It is the duty of nursing personnel to deliver care to all, regardless of social status. This is the vow me make upon graduation (the international nurses pledge). It is not the nurses’ role to determine who are admitted and who are not. The quality of care given to Kings and Queens should be the same for individuals who cannot afford bread. Nurses give care. Admissions and discharges are not our responsibilities. We advocate on behalf of patients, not join with others to strip our clients of their dignity. Any nurse who supports a call to dehumanize a patient whether by words or actions should consider alternative employment; nursing is not your calling. We must always remember that tomorrow the boot can be on the other foot.

Let us lobby for laws that will defend those clients who are abandoned while others are enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Ms Audrey Gittens-Scott
Chief Nursing Officer