Dear Editor: I listened helplessly as my friend on the other end informed me of the death of his father. He was reporting that his father fell ill suddenly and had no pre-existing conditions that would prepare his family for this shock.
When he noticed his dad was gasping for breath, he did what all of us would do. He called the ambulance service. According to him, the telephone operator said there are ambulances, but no drivers. “Please!” he begged, but the response remained the same. He told the operator his father was dying. The operator replied, “I am sorry Sir, most of us are on strike.” He called for the neighbour’s help, placed his dad on the back seat of a car and transported him to the hospital. Upon arrival at the Victoria Hospital, he was given oxygen, but died moments after.
On Tuesday, a small group at my workplace was discussing the strike and I shared with them my friend’s experience. One of my co-workers reported that an elderly lady in the town of Vieux-Fort was also left stranded, after she appeared to have suffered a stroke or a seizure. Her daughter called for help. “I want an ambulance! My mother collapsed.” She was hysterical, as you would imagine. The response? “Sorry, but we are not in a position to respond to your call. The panic-stricken daughter repeated, “I want an ambulance. I really want an ambulance.” She says the response was, “Do you want to buy one? We have none for sale.”
How cold! How insensitive! How wicked! Who will stand for the citizens of this country?
What justification can there be for such behaviour and action? How is it that these officers can allow people to die and suffer even after the government and the same fire chief they have crucified have acted in the interest of national safety and security? For years the FSA (Fire Service Association) campaigned against the fire chief. There were a number of charges made by the Association. The allegations were noted and recommendations were made in a Commission of Inquiry. The Commission never suggested the removal of the fire chief.
The prime minister, in his wisdom, noted that for the situation to be addressed, he had to go further than what was stipulated in the report. The fire chief, having suffered the onslaught of insults and allegations, agreed that in the interest of peace and safety of our country and citizens, he would move. Why is it that those who paint themselves to be blameless and spotless in all of this confusion have refused to meet the other parties half way?
Since when did industrial action include letting your fellow brothers and sisters die? Where is the discipline in the Fire Service? Where is the love and care for our neighbours? No matter how unhappy we are, we have a basic responsibility to humanity. Given what is currently happening and the callous and insensitive response of the Fire Service Association, I call for more action from the government. We need to deal with the rogues in the Fire Service. This problem is deeper than what we see and hear in the news.
When I heard Mary Isaac and Julian Monrose say in the news that they will stand with the fire officers and mobilise and give them all of the support they need to strike, I asked, “Do these people know of the man who died half an hour after he was denied ambulance service?” Are they aware that their very lives are at risk because of the behaviour of some of these officers? Our leaders need to be careful what they endorse. All workers have rights and I respect that. However, there must be a point where your right to take action ends because of your responsibility to others.
The government played its part and has announced legislative reform and an expert review of the Fire Service. The fire chief played his part by agreeing to go on leave and being seconded to SLASPA thereafter. Where does that leave the Fire Service Association? What is their contribution to a solution? As far as I see it now, the FSA is contributing to a bigger problem. This is not the Middle East! No innocent citizen must die to satisfy the agenda of a few selfish, stubborn and indiscipline fire officers!
I call on the government to take action against the Fire Service Association for failing to dispense it’s duties to the public. No legislative amendment is needed to tell the FSA that citizens cannot be left to die while they fight personal payback battles. This is unacceptable and heartless. Somebody needs to stand up for the helpless citizens of Saint Lucia.