By ADRIAN GIBSON
THE REVELATION that 519 people were shot and stabbed—per Princess Margaret Hospital statistics—which bear a stark contrast to the 10 attempted murders recorded by the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) for the same period, seems to suggest that some manipulative hanky-panky might have been done to vary the police’s data. Indeed, the statistical disparities between PMH’s data and that which has been reported by the police raises questions about the classification of criminal activities and whether the police or the powers that be cherry-pick which incidents would be categorized are serious or not.
Frankly, the numbers being proffered by the police—relative to the epidemic of criminality engulfing our society—appears to be clearly inaccurate. The Princess Margaret Hospital is the first contact point for most people injured or wounded by a criminal act and therefore the professionals at the hospital would be the most believable in terms of their account of the persons that they treat on an every day basis. One would be more inclined to believe the validity of the Princess Margaret Hospital’s data to that of the police.
In recent times, there has seemingly been a demonstrated interference in the activity of the RBPF. I, and other Bahamians, want to know if the police force, in any way, has been directed to paint a glowing picture by variation of the definitions of the various heads of crime. There is only one truth, there can only be one set of facts! So, what are the tools that the police are using, how are the assumptions being made relative to the crime statistics? The Bahamian public deserves and wants to hear the truth and, quite honestly, the apparent fudging of the crime statistics is demonstrative of the importance of the Freedom of Information Act towards strengthening our democracy.
When one looks at the hyperbole, the melodrama and all the “flammin’” surrounding the so-called BTC deal, one notes that we live in an era where such inanity could only happen in an environment cloaked in secrecy. Why won’t the government let the Bahamian people see the documents and the agreement concerning the so-called take back? Why hasn’t the public seen ALL of the transactions between Cable and Wireless and the current and previous administration? Is there a reason why we can’t see it?
Yesterday, I was reliably informed that the medical records department at PMH reviews all emergency room visits using computer data and hard copies as well as looking at the diagnostic code related to patient visits. I was emphatically told that “everything is recorded.”
By all accounts, PMH’s emergency room is one of the busiest in the world. According to a noted physician, PMH has more than 50,000 visits per annum. Dr Duane Sands, Head of the Accident and Emergency Department from 1997 to 2002, told me that they have been “collating patient visits and determining if we have a paediatric patient to medical problems to surgical patients to road traffic victims to assaults, whilst also specifically honing in on gun shots and stabbings.”
Asked whether there were any methodological issues concerning the data collected by PMH, Dr Sands said: “If there were methodological issues in a retrospective review—which may or may not capture some information depending on who is doing the coding—we have sought to sort that out. When we renovated the emergency department—introducing a trauma room, putting a lab in the emergency department, introducing a large asthma bay, increasing the footprint of the emergency room—we simultaneously modified the medical recording areas to record data. The impetus for the modifying of the patient encounter sheet in the emergency department came from a desire to be able to perform an injury surveillance study that would allow clinicians to give valid data to policy makers so that it could inform decision making. Since the modified forms is my baby, every year I request the crime data. I don’t know how many other people look at the data, but I do. All of the presentations and comments I have made are consistent with that data. I believe that the data from the emergency room is consistent with the reality of my day-to-day clinical practice and all of the perceptions we may have about overcrowding on the ward, inadequacy of room and the impact of violence and trauma on the other medical departments. ”
According to Dr Sands, the recently released crime statistics are “also validated by the discussions we have in our quality control meetings every Wednesday morning at PMH, where we discuss our mortality and morbidity experiences and review the management of complex cases.”
An anonymous source at PMH—who wished to remain unnamed—told me that relative to rapes, a dedicated room was created in the emergency department at PMH, specifically for the human evaluation and treatment of alleged rape victims. Known as the Agape room, if there is any clinical problem subject to rigorous, protocol-driven management, it would be an alleged rape. As it stands, I’m told that women are taken out of the chaos of the general emergency department and placed in a quiet, comfortable area because they have been so traumatized. In that vein, if one were to question the validity and reliability of any subset of patients, it appears that the public can rest assured that that would likely be coded properly. If PMH has such a room, where they pay special care to rape victims, the statistics related to rape—that they individually take on a one-on-one basis—are most likely truthful and accurate. If a woman subsequently withdraws the allegation and decides not to press charges, or be coerced sometimes by prominent public officials to drop charges, it doesn’t change the validity of the original complaint made between patient and physician. There is no reason to doubt that if there are a specific number of cases reported in the logs of accident and emergency at PMH and that in and of itself leads one to conclude that it is quite certain that a woman would’ve been sexually traumatized. Is that not what women are concerned about!
Frankly, the Bahamian people are entitled to know the actual prevalence of incidents of rape and other sexual crimes happening in the Bahamas!
Indeed, in the Bahamas, the gun has become the great equalizer of men. As a good friend of mine told me yesterday, “with a gun, any 85 pound, four feet 10 inch punk becomes godlike in his ability to control the destiny of the people at whom he points a gun.” Quite honestly, a young punk with a gun gets to decide whether one lives or dies, whether one “frees up or not—and even though one’s opponent or prey may have a natural advantage in size or speed, such a person is seldom able to neutralize the advantage of having a powerful handgun or assault rifle. According to my friend, “it is not rocket science, we are no different in New Providence than it is in South Central L.A.; Detroit; Kingston, Jamaica; or Camden, New Jersey.”
Indeed, we are currently witnessing the extermination of young males in the Bahamas. Young men—a demographic to which I belong—are being cut down by other primarily black, young men. Our people are dying and we can pretend all we want that we don’t have a problem or that this year’s crime statistics or that year’s crime statistics is not as bad as the year before. We would only be playing a numbers games and fooling ourselves.
On Gaming Board Chairman Dr Andre Rollins
I support Dr Andre Rollins’ attempt to admonish the government—of which he’s a part—to bring resolution to the web shop operations in the wake of last year’s failed referendum where citizens voted “no” on questions proffered by the government in its opinion poll. According to Dr Rollins, the government appears to be “afraid to act”, preferring that foreigners own casinos whilst refusing to move legislation to legalize internet gaming for Bahamians. He also criticized the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) for being selective in its fight against the immorality of web shop gambling whilst glazing over casino gambling and not demonstrating the same zeal to reject the “immorality” that—based on the church’s position—should also relate to casino gaming.
Yes, the current administration must either get on with regulating the web shops and local gaming (a position I would support considering the practicality of it all) or totally shut down web shop operations. If the government regulates web shop gaming, the BCC will no doubt loudly protest and many people would feel that the wishes of some members of the electorate—expressed via the referendum results—was discarded. However, considering the prevalence of web shop gambling (a national pastime), the need for funds and the government’s proposal to implement VAT, the administration has the numbers to simply get on with regulating the local industry.
Kudos to Rollins for having the gumption and the wherewithal to speak the truth even when it could adversely affect his political standing within his own party!
Death of Long Islander Shervin Smith
A few weeks ago, my good friend Shervin “Smithy” Smith passed away.
Smithy was one of Long Island’s greatest ambassadors. Every time I went to Long Island, I would run into him at the airport or hear from him once he knew I was there. He was also a taxi driver, driving taxi number 10 , so it was hard for Smithy to be missed or not know when I landed. The last time I saw him was during the summer, when he came and sat with me as I waited for my flight and we discussed my business in Long Island, politics (a favourite topic of his), my columns and radio appearances, his health and life in general.
I knew that Smithy was battling cancer as he had asked me to do something for him before and when I dropped it off at his second home in Golden Gates—where he stayed when he came to Nassau—he made the revelation to me. This was more than a year ago.
I will never forget his love for Long Island and how he always called to make an input into a column or informing me of some happening in Long Island. Smithy was a friend and a community builder, having also served on the Local Government Board for a number of years. I’ll miss his chatter and his way of calling and starting a conversation by saying “boy, Adrian this or that....”
My sincere condolences are expressed to his family. May his soul rest in peace.