Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

My Sister Gets Expelled from the Emergency Ward Because She Can't Pay on the Spot

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

My Sister Gets Expelled from the Emergency Ward Because She Can't Pay on the Spot

Article excerpt

Mrs Howe tells me that several friends expressed their concern about my violent mishap in Tobago, of which I wrote last week. But there were no broken bones, only a badly bruised arm that improves daily with the consumption of cubes of aloe vera from the neighbours' yard. All is well.

But only abroad do we Britons who originated in the Caribbean really appreciate the importance of a free National Health Service. Without the herbal remedy, my bruised arm would have cost another arm--and a leg as well.

While I was here in Trinidad, my sister's blood pressure ran up to alarming levels. The hospital authorities expelled her from the emergency ward because she was unable to pay on the spot. I rushed from cashpoint to cashpoint and took a taxi a long distance in order to deliver the hundred Trinidadian dollars needed to reinstate her.

The notes were received by a cashier, who gave me a receipt that was written out in triplicate. It was an exchange of a commodity for cash. It could have been mangoes from the local supermarket.

This twin island state is set for huge economic gains. But the Americans are most likely to be the beneficiaries. I remember the days when we socialist activists in the Caribbean were hunted and undermined by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA crushed the late Michael Manley's quest for a socialist Jamaica in the 1970s, contributed to the demise of the Grenadian revolution and made incalculable mischief here in Trinidad and Tobago.

But American influence is no longer clandestine. …

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