Roxborough residents are calling on the Division of Health and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA) to respond with treatment and care for mentally ill persons in the village as they gathered last Wednesday for a community meeting at the Betsy’s Hope/ ouis D’or Multipurpose Facility hosted by the Division of Health and the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA).
Resident Rawle Anderson, noting that there were mentally ill persons who roam the streets of the village daily, wondered at the lack of care for them.
“I want to know what actually has been done with people who has been mentally ill because you walk the streets every day and those mentally ill people are still roaming the streets unattended… it’s like nobody seems to care about them,” said Anderson.
Another resident, Allison Thomas-Bascombe, suggested that while the community could take responsibility for the mentally ill persons, some help was needed from the authorities.
“We are faced with this problem… everybody by now in Tobago must know “Smuggie,” this gentleman in Roxborough who walks naked…in my days as a little child, I know that young man was a police officer and it hurts me now to see every day this man is naked. Yes, it is a community thing, but shall we collaborate with the police to get him off the streets, because we are promoting tourism in Tobago? “
Benedict Job called for urgent action for the mentally ill persons on the streets.
“…I was there personally when I saw two of them fighting, pelting missiles behind one another, held up the traffic. Other people had to intervene and shout at them… this is another area where people going about their business could have been damaged because they were violently throwing missiles at one another,” Job said.
Health Secretary Dr Carrington, responding to the villagers’ concerns, suggested treatment of Roxborough’s mentally ill persons was also a responsibility of the community.
“People, although they are mentally ill, they have rights as well. I don’t know that we can just take them off the streets as you are suggesting. We care for every citizen… it is not the issue of who cares. This is a community made up of both state and others and persons in communities also must assist. So, whereas you throw it back as if it is the state only, we have an obligation to also look at persons in communities,” she said.
TRHA Chairman Ingrid Melville said help has been sought from the authorities.
“As the TRHA, we have mental health officers, we have psychiatrists… however, they have to get a certain license from the Government to be able to apprehend persons like that and take them in. For years, the TRHA have been writing to the various Ministers of Health, to various Attorney Generals to seek a solution to this problem, to have our psychiatrists or the Medical Chief of Staff designated with the powers to be able to do that. In the absence of that, our mental health officers seek help from the police who have that power to apprehend,” Melville said.
Villagers also complained about a lack of garbage collection and the untimeliness of the ambulance service in the area.
Melville, in her welcome remarks, noted that from a 2017 meeting, an outstanding issue to be addressed remains provision of health care services after 4 pm.
“We were able to have the Roxborough Health Centre opened from 8am to 8pm. However, while this is ongoing, we noticed that there are persons from within this area, who for some reason, would not use the service at Roxborough but they would show up at the Accident and Emergency Department of the Scarborough General Hospital. Even more compelling, there are persons from this area who would seek services between 4pm and 8pm at the Scarborough Health Centre.
“I do not know if that speaks to where the persons are at that point in time of the day or if it speaks to a challenge in terms of the service which is provided at the Roxborough Health Centre… but this is just my observation based upon the data I have received,” she said.
Carrington said the Division was looking forward to building on the services offered to residents from Belle Garden to Speysidedespite funding difficulties.
Resident Anderson, in his contribution from the floor, also raised the matter of a non existent garbage collection system in his area to which, Carrington describing the matter as “vexing,” promised to inquire from the Public Health inspectors why Quuen Street had no service.
Minority Councillor, Dr Faith BYisrael, also a resident of the area, inquired about working ambulances in the district.
“I had the responsibility of having to call an ambulance last week on behalf of a family friend…this person had what we know was a heart attack and waited for an ambulance for over an hour. “That is something that is frightening, that is something that I know many of us on this end of the island have experienced and that is something that needs to be worked on,” BYisrael said.
“The frustration of that situation is acknowledged. At the moment, the TRHA has 10 ambulances, nine are functioning… there are six bases - one at Charlotteville, one at Roxborough, one at Parlatuvier, one at Bacolet, the other two are Lowlands and Plymouth. You were at Goodwood, so therefore Bacolet and Delaford, one of them should have reached before one hour.”