It’s been quite a week hasn’t it! We have had the Sherlock Holmes mystery of the bullets that fly at right angles – comical if it were not so serious. And we have had the impregnation of an under-age schoolgirl by an elected Councillor and the very disturbing involvement of a Minister in the government.
Although of a very different kind, this sorry affair does cause me to recall that it was 50 years ago that I appealed to all members of the new National Assembly to re-consider the then policy of expelling from school every girl who became pregnant.
In both instances the end result was and is that the poor girl’s hope of obtaining a decent education were terminated or severely set back. It seems that we have barely progressed! But then we also have a Princess Marina Hospital which appears, over the years, to have regressed, rather than improved. Now we have patients who rarely get washed, patients whose results take forever to appear and patients who rarely see a doctor. Sometime, today or was it yesterday, was International Nurses Day – the Lady with the Lamp, compassion, care and love – and all that stuff of long ago. Do you remember? Of course not. A foolish question because it must have been in the 1970s that the nurses wrested control from the doctors, broke free and effectively declared their independence. And since then, of course, they have had total control over the entire national medical service.
How many of us therefore remember what hospitals were like before that revolution occurred? I was looking today at an old illustrated book on the Molepolole Hospital and there was a photo of Alfred Merriweather doing the rounds of his wards with a nurse at his side.
How many of us have seen that happening in the last 50 years? Doctors and nurses don’t do this any more, do they? The idea that staff in hospitals should work as a team for the benefit of their patients is long gone. Today, they work independently of each other, often undermining or negating what the other is doing, to the detriment of the patients they are supposed to be helping. It is a miserable scenario, one which has long been known to everyone but also one which no one in authority has been willing or able to put right.
It says much about the nature of our democracy that the appalling situation in Princess Marina Hospital has never become a political issue. Apart from those who occasionally have had the means to sue, who has ever been able to obtain redress or apology? But this week I want to leave you with two images which, for me, represent so much of what is happening to us today. And the point that I want to make is that we can and should be doing things so much better.
The first image, a Princess Marina image, is of a lady who was allowed to leave the hospital on foot whilst bleeding from the bum and without a single pad. For me, that is horrific. And what about for you? What if that just happened to be you or me or your wife or mother?
And now for my other image which is of a total different kind but one which also tells us something about ourselves. This one comes from the immigration office in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Gaborone – you know the place, the one which is more like the Gaborone bus station than anything else.
Always huge numbers of people with only few of them knowing what they need to do or where to go. Amongst that number last week was an older man who somehow got himself to a counter, clutching his form, only to be told to sit down and wait until he was called. He did so.
An hour and a half later he was still there, still clutching his form and still waiting to be called. Meanwhile all the others who had arrived long after him, had all been helped and had all left.
All of them knowing that the worst thing to do in that place is to sit down and wait to be called. But authority had told him to wait.
So, being an old fashioned kind of person, he waited. When next I go that way, I might call in to check – and wouldn’t be too surprised to find that he is still there, still clutching his form and still patiently waiting to be called.