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Saturday 20 July 2019
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Editorial

In the national interest

WE WISH Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley well on his latest health check but take this opportunity to remind our leaders, and those they are charged with and seek to govern, of the importance of sticking to a health regime. No one, not even prime ministers, is invulnerable to stress and lifestyle diseases.

While Rowley can be praised for his candidness it is nonetheless of concern to see, yet again, a prime minister caught up in health woes while in office. It seems every prime minister since our Independence has been hobbled at one stage or another by some form of malady. In fact, one prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, died while in office.

Rowley would do well to learn from the experiences of his predecessors. A leader must understand the responsibility they are entrusted with by their national communities, and we do not encourage anyone to begrudge the Prime Minister his seeking the best possible treatment.

Cheap politics too often is allowed to overshadow these issues. In fact, it is the duty of our elected representatives and of persons who offer themselves for public service to ensure they are fit for duty and take all steps possible to remain so. There is no room for nonchalance, especially when the fate of an entire nation depends on them.

A regular health check is an important part of any regime. Such checks can identify issues before they develop into crippling problems and can also provide reassurance and minimise stress. It cannot be denied these are not the easiest of times for the holders of the reins of office.

The crime, the economic situation, turmoil in the industrial relations sector are just some of the matters that require round-the-clock attention. Yet, it is equally true that effective time management is the key to dealing with heavy workloads. And time management must take into account the human condition and its limits.

There should be systems in place to ensure all prime ministers receive the medical attention they need regularly and without fail. Though Rowley may have wished to defer examinations in order to focus on the task at hand, that approach is not necessarily in the interest of the nation.

Meanwhile, the prime minister’s disclosure that he will undergo checks abroad has, once more, triggered debate about the quality of local health care. Rowley is hardly the first leader to seek treatment away. Again, almost every leader at one stage did so.

There may be good reasons why some individuals seek specialist treatment in foreign countries, whether out of habit or intentional choice. But it cannot be denied confidence in the local health sector is not encouraged when leaders fly out.

While the State is spending billions to renovate local facilities such as the Port-of-Spain General Hospital’s Central Block, its officials are suggesting the healthcare system needs much more than a facelift.

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