A friend of mine told me a story about what seemed to be a life-threatening experience involving our health services and agriculture, as currently practised in T&T.

When returning from Mayaro to his home in Morvant, he stopped at a roadside stall and purchased some ochroes. These he boiled that night and mixed into his dinner. Later, he started vomiting. Nothing he ate could stay down.

With help from his daughter, he was admitted to the Port of Spain General Hospital Accident and Emergency Department. There he was placed in a wheelchair and eventually seen very briefly by a doctor, who ordered a saline drip be attached. He stayed three days in the hospital like that—in a wheelchair!

Despite his requests, he could not get a bed, not even a pillow, and most nurses ignored his pleas for some water to wet his lips.

He was sent home but after some days there, with no ability to eat and retain any food, he was taken to the Mt Hope hospital after refusing to return to the general hospital. There they eventually placed him on a gurney (not a bed), and indicated they would be treating him simi­larly, so he managed to discharge himself the next day and was taken to a private hospital in St Augustine.

The private doctor examined him and pinched his skin, discovering signs of acute dehydration. He was again put on a saline drip and encouraged to drink soup, and warded. From that moment on, he began to improve. A scope inspection of oesophagus and stomach revealed burns, apparently chemical­—the problem apparently being vegetables treated with some chemical.

He has recovered enough to undertake physical activities again, but is ­noticeably weaker than before.

Obviously the public health sector is still a dangerous place for anybody with a less-than-obvious treatment requirement, which is deeply disappointing after all the good words from the line minister.

But what about the production of food in Trinidad and Tobago, which is largely the work of completely unregulated squatter farmers who are free to sell their produce to all, not knowing what harm they do with pesticides, fungicides, weed killers, fertilisers, etc?

It is common to see people emerging from off-road fields on State or private lands, laden with spray cans they have just used in order to produce nice-looking crops that are then sold to the public. What chemicals have they introduced to our public diet? Obviously farming in the hands of uneducated persons operating with no controls or regulation is a real hazard in our country today. This may be a big problem, and we don’t even know it!

Reg Potter

Glencoe

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