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Points to Ponder

Hooliganism at public hospitals

A First Point: My attention has been drawn to two matters concerning the nursing officers working in our public hospitals and dispensaries. On both matters the Ministry of Health must take the necessary steps to work out a solution for the welfare of the staff as well as the other employees, not to mention the patients. The first matter concerns the fact that two or three nursing officers were beaten up in the course of their duty by hooligans who wanted to visit their relative who was an in-patient at the Candos Hospital. Such hooliganism cannot be tolerated and must be condemned in very strong terms by the authorities; the persons concerned must be taken to Court and, if found guilty, must be given the severest punishment possible to serve as an example to others.

How is it that relatives of patients can visit them at any time of the day and night? In the past, parents were allowed such visits twice per week, at fixed hours. Maybe government in those days thought that it would be doing a good turn to both the patients and the relatives if the visiting days were to be extended such that parents and friends could visit patients every day of the week, but at fixed hours. However, some persons take it that they can walk into the wards at any time of the day or night and visit their relatives.

If there is abuse by relatives, and abuse there is according to me, it may well be that we shall have to return to the old system when relatives are allowed to visit patients only twice a week at fixed times. I am sure that the relatives will never agree to a change in visiting hours and days, but a solution must be found. One solution would be to allow visitors, say between ten to eleven in the morning and between two to five in the afternoon. And only two or three persons can visit one patient at any one time. Such a solution would be in the best interest of the patients themselves.

The ministry has mooted the idea of installing closed circuit television in the wards, but the nursing officers believe that it would not be a solution to violence against the nursing officers. Maybe not a complete solution, but this will act as a deterrent. However, I have a feeling that some nursing officers are guided by other considerations. The closed circuit television will also reveal the misdeeds and misdoings, if any, of some of the nursing officers themselves. They would rather be ill-treated by members of the public rather than let everybody in on what they are up to. While a decision on the total coverage of the wards by CCTV can be taken later, for the immediate protection of the nursing officers the entrances to the wards can very well be covered rightaway. Would the nursing officers agree to this suggestion?

Then we have this other problem that nursing officers should start work at seven o’clock in the morning only on days on which patients must give their blood sample for testing purposes about diabetes or some other illness. People, especially old people, should not and cannot be made to wait till nine or ten o’clock before eating something, and we all know the problems that fasting can cause to people who do not enjoy good health.

The nursing officers do not want to cooperate with the patients or with the ministry. They do not want to take time off for starting work early. So what is the problem and the solution?

It is only a question of money. Give the nursing officers who will be called upon to start work as from 7 o’clock in the morning an additional pay. Does the Minister not know how the minds of government officers function, the more so as the Minister herself was a government officer for a long time? Money solves many problems. Money is the problem and money is the solution. 

Preserve our National Archives 

A Second Point: At times Paul Bérenger, the Leader of the Opposition, acts as a very good politician. The other day, he proposed that a Mauritian Cultural Centre should be established, with headquarters around Le Reduit, and which should also house our national archives. Our national archives are too important for our future to be left in some run-down building in the industrial estate in Coromandel.

The archives of a country must be kept in a building specially built for the purpose, with proper air conditioning and climate control system, to ensure that the documents do not deteriorate with time, by the weather or by mishandling. I remember having visited the Archives Department of tiny Zanzibar and was surprised that the documents were so well kept, in an appropriate building, with the proper temperature control; the documents were well classified and I could see that the person in charge was very much concerned about preserving the documents. He was a real archivist.

I am wholeheartedly in favour of the suggestion of Paul Bérenger and being given that the Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam is agreeable that our archives must be properly kept, it does seem that we shall soon have a proper building for our archives, so much the better for us, don’t you agree?

There is another point. The Prime Minister has said that the registers of the Indian Immigrants should be made part of UNESCO’s memoirs, and this can then be consulted by people of Mauritius as well as of other countries. This would be a very laudable effort by the authorities. I know that most of the descendants of Indian Immigrants, both Hindus and Muslims, are eager to trace their roots, and at the same time find out if they have relatives in other countries of the Indian diaspora, and here I am talking of Trinidad, Guyana and Fiji, not to mention of Surinam, South Africa and other countries.

I know from experience how the Hindus in the other countries feel. I do not like to narrate what I have personally gone through, but here I will make an exception.

I was in Trinidad and after the business for which I was there was over, a relative of mine who lives in Trinidad collected me from the hotel and we went to stay at his place for a few days. A Durga Puja was going on at the local Mandir and we were invited as well. When the Puja was over, I, as a foreigner, was invited to say a few words.

In my speech, I said that when my ancestor came to Mauritius, and it may well have been that a brother or two of that ancestor of mine could very well have gone to Trinidad or Fiji or Guyana, who would know? When they were in the port of Calcutta, they may have been asked to go in a ship bound for Mauritius, another for Trinidad, still another for Fiji and a fourth one for Guyana. And those ancestors could not read and write. Brothers were lost to each other for good and the descendants have no means of tracing their lost relatives.

And I ended my speech by telling the audience that an one of the members could be a relative of mine, without either of them or myself knowing anything about the fact . The eyes of many of the persons were full of tears, and watching them, my eyes became moist as well. This is the reason for which the Prime Minister should be congratulated for this very good idea that our archives of the Indian immigrants should form part of the UNESCO project. And at the same time, the other countries of the Indian diaspora should be encouraged to do the same, and I am sure that many of us would find a few relatives in those far-off countries. The Prime Minister is on the right track.

I was about to forget, after the Puja, we were served a copious dinner, on banana leaves and we had puris and all the curries that we have here, except that we also had aloo ke chatni, which is not served on such an occasion. And we were also served rice, as is normally done here.

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