VETERAN calypsonian and chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) Winston “Gypsy” Peters on Sunday took advantage of the North Central Regional Health Authority's (NCRHA) Ready for the Road offer of free medical service for key Carnival stakeholders.
The service, provided at the St Joseph Health Centre, included a free executive medical check-up, inclusive of blood works, consultation with a physician, referrals and prescriptions filled upon completion.
Newsday caught up with Peters during the process. He said the experience has been great and was as good as any executive medical assessment.
“I think that it is one that people should embrace, and I think it is one that it is worth coming for because you are getting something that you would normally have to pay for. This is fantastic,” he told Newsday after he received his check-up.
Peters said it was better to know and treat any illness, than not know and have it shorten your life.
He said without a medical assessment, if diseases go undetected, it becomes "more expensive to treat" later on.
"So if you can catch it in stage one, then evidently it would be much easier to treat than if you don’t do it at all.”
He said those in the Carnival and entertainment business were at risk.
“I personally burn the candle at both ends and then the centre. I am an entertainer, a business person, an executive and it is just stressful. And stress is one of the biggest killers in the world. So people who are like my good self are definitely at risk because sometimes you don’t get to eat at all, or sometimes you don’t know when you’re going to eat.”
Peters also said, at times, when entertainers get home in the wee hours of the morning, they just eat and go to sleep which is not a healthy habit.
He applauded the government and chief executive officer of the NCRHA, Davlin Thomas, for the initiative, also praising the healthcare system in TT.
“Let me give kudos to the health care in TT that people bastardise all the time. Our healthcare in TT is better than any healthcare in any other part of the Caribbean, except Cuba. We don’t have everything perfect, but our healthcare, even the physical buildings, are better than 99 per cent of the places in the Caribbean and I wish the people of TT will appreciate what we have,” he said.
Thomas said many of the NCRHA's patients have diseases they did not know about. He said the NCRHA felt it was more prudent to treat with the root cause of illnesses and catching it in its early stages.
He said at the last Ready for the Road initiative, at least four mas practitioners had serious conditions they were not aware of, but, thankfully, they were conditions that could be controlled.
“We had a person with major heart disease who just didn’t know and they are alive and well today. They would have been on the street Carnival day and just drop down," he said.
Thomas said one of the main reasons for embarking on the initiative was in keeping with the NCRHA's ethos of providing up-front care.
“This is not a situation where we wait until you get ill and then you come in and then we take cake of you. The issue now is confronting the diseases or the possibility of diagnosing the diseases before to ensure that we don’t have you on the bed in here. It is actually working," he added.
The NCRHA's boss also spoke of the stress relief centre in Chaguanas where patients can see psychiatrists and have their stresses dealt with.
He said 19 persons a day are going to that centre, and the authority has seen a 20-30 per cent decrease in in-patient load.
As an entertainer himself, Thomas said: “Entertainers don’t sleep. People think entertainers and mas people are people who get to sleep late but they don’t sleep.
“While others are sleeping, we are making costumes," he pointed out.
As part of the initiative, some 80 people from various Carnival interest groups were treated on Saturday and another 120 on Sunday.
Thomas said there will be a week of cancer screenings for men, from January 25, as well as vaccinations and for women, the pap smears will be done the following weekend.
He said: “The beauty of those is that we see tangible results. We actually find people with cancer that they did not know about and it’s about usually an eight to ten per cent of the 1,200-1,500 persons who come in a day.”
During the upcoming screenings, entertainment will be provided and said Thomas, “You come in a pleasant situation and we test you and then we do the follow-up to make sure that we bring you back to 100 per cent or as best as we could.”