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Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. (iWN file photo)
Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. (iWN file photo)
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By On-foot Observer

If I have a burglar-barred home yet every other week burglars are still able to break in and steal my appliances one by one, is my home really burglar barred?

Most of the attention that the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) gets from the public is focused on its shortcomings in relation to the availability of medication, laboratory tests, other essential medical services, and the general level of patient care. However, little highlight is given to how well the MCMH, on a whole, has been doing in securing itself over the years. We must commend this institution for being as safe as it can be with little to no security capabilities.

Most other government institutions/departments do not seem to possess MCMH’s talents in self-security. From observation, the Argyle International Airport, Immigration Department, General Post Office, Inland Revenue Department, Financial Complex, Legal Affairs and the Kingstown and Campden Park seaports all have at least one police officer on duty at any given time. Even an open space like the Cruise Ship Terminal is secured by Rapid Response Unit officers. They all seem quite incapable of operating without police presence, like the MCMH has been doing for years, even though MCMH is the one institution that encounters all walks of life, especially the most rambunctiously common.

Yes, the hospital gets some of the most rowdy visitors from time to time — even outside of the Carnival season. People have attempted to get onto wards with the intention of causing further bodily harm to patients; others for revenge, and some, dissatisfied for whatever reason, aim their aggression at staff members.

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For instance, I have heard of a guy who had to be wrestled out of the Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) by MCMH staff members assisting the overpowered security workers. There was even once a guy bracing to hurl a breakable bottle into the same A&E Department full of ailing people. Furthermore, some years aback, a male attendant had to dash desperately into their quarters where he was cornered and beaten with a blunt object that fractured his forearms. His only rescue came in the form of another male attendant courageous enough to intervene.

Did these aggressors deserve to be arrested on spot?

Were they arrested?

More importantly, could the police have made to the MCMH in time to arrest these persons before they made of into the concrete wilderness?

What kind of message does such incidents send to the public?

There are even occasions where mentally challenged patients behave violently towards nurses. While police officers are, obviously, not trained to deal with mentally disturbed individuals, are security workers or male attendants any better trained? At least a police officer would be able to able to draw upon his law enforcement experience in dealing with violent elements in society.

As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon in these rowdy visitor incidents for other hospital staff — mainly male attendants to have no choice but to step in, risking injury to themselves to ward off violent elements of the public. Anyone can appreciate that this goes far beyond the duties of these ordinary hospital workers. They surely would not have “stepped in” if the situation, along with bystanders, did not scream for security – security, which often makes little difference in these instances, even though health care is undeniably incomplete without a basic sense of safety and security. This is not meant as a jab at the hard-working men and women at the security booth and gates. They do their best with meagre training and support to uphold the MCMH’s security window dressing by its overstretched curtain rods.

The aforementioned incidents may have already faded from public memory and even from the memories of the staff members who would have witnessed, or endured them. However, the recent spectacle of the alleged delivery outside the maternity ward that has lapped the social media circuit should still be fresh enough in our memories to make the relevance of this security issue even clearer. I myself was taken aback upon seeing that sordid video. How could the nurses be that cruel?

Luckily, I was made aware of the circumstances that led to the infamous video recording. They alleged that in light of certain development, the nurses, as committed as they might have been to providing this essential service were forced to address the most critical aspect — securing the neonate, and then running for cover […]

So, as horrible as the video is at first glance can we really blame the nurses for not crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s […]

Could you hold it together under such circumstances?

While social media has provided one side of the story, when would we get to hear the side of the nurses on this matter?

Would the situation have escalated as it did, had the A&E nurses had the option of summoning on-compound police officers?

Was a police investigation carried out in light of the allegations made.

Indeed, the video failed to provide the context to the public to mature our impressions of the incident. So, it is easiest for us to remain appalled by it instead of being disgusted with the alleged real, underlying issue that made much of what happened possible. Our country’s primary healthcare facility continues to be forced to virtually secure itself against a society filled with people who would not miss an opportunity to take advantage of anything looking defenceless.

The facility faces constant threats to the security of patients and worker in different forms. For instance, apparently there is a thief that sometimes prowls the hospital halls, much like the felines do. Hospital rumour has it that this thief does not wear shoes when taking these prowls — again, like the felines. The maternity and paediatric are his wards of choice for stealing the possessions of the staff and patients. The “Barefoot Prowler” specialises in cell phones, electronic tablets, tote bags and the like.

Was he ever caught…?

Since he is able to do it repeatedly, will he ever be caught?

Would a security worker’s baton be enough to subdue him when he unsheaths his claws if he were to be confronted one night?

What else could he have done on one of his prowls on these female and child-dominated wards?

I would like to believe that hospital administration or health officials would be deeply disturbed by this on-going issue. How could they not be?

If I, a mere on-foot observer, am aware of this issue, how can the hospital administration and health officials not be more intimately familiar with it?

Moreover, an even more recent incident tells of a nurse being held up at gunpoint on the hospital compound…

If it is by some unknown imperative that the MCMH has to be secured by a security firm, and even if it has to be that particular one, is it not possible to have two police officers stationed on the compound to provide them extra support should serious situations arise? We can all appreciate that police officers command more respect from the public in ways that security workers would not be able to. This article should spark in your mind the burning question of why, in the face of all the violent and embarrassing security breaches, is it seemingly of utmost importance that this country’s primary healthcare facility continues to be forced to secure itself.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

2 replies on “The ‘Barefoot Prowler’ and security at MCMH”

  1. Taiwan could help by providing cameras for all the locations in this article. All it need then is a fast response outfit to get to the location in minutes to apprehend the culprit. The bus top gift serves no purpose and was totally garbage.

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