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Love is work made visible

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White


This week found me sitting beside my sister’s sick bed at a hospice in the south of Scotland. According to its website, the Ayrshire Hospice “provides outstanding quality care and services which helps those with any life-limiting illness.

 

Care is provided where there is no cure for the condition, but which improves the quality of each day for people who have a limited time to live….. “  this is my first exposure to such a facility  and I am overwhelmed mostly because I have discovered an organisation that truly lives up to its mission statement and. for that matter, everything else.


I am experiencing a great model of a business. I purposely do not use the term ‘business model’ because this refers to how a company intends to make profits but the hospice is a charitable organisation and exits for another reason. Notwithstanding it has purpose, direction, structure, customer service and passion and its entire operation demonstrates the bringing together of all of these components which gives life to the maxim ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.


Generally speaking, people who are dying need care in four areas (physical comfort, emotional needs, spatial issues and practical tasks) and the hospice excels at all of these. While this is a place where people come to die, paradoxically it feels more like a hotel than a hospital. They have recreated the territory completely and when the context changes, so does the experience.

 

When a visitor signs in at the reception area they are registered not by a surly security guard but a smiling and caring volunteer who also will also call a taxi for you when you leave. The rooms (which would be wards in a hospital) are bright and airy, done in soft pastel colours;  an extra personal touch is the whiteboard near each bed with the heading ‘What matters to you’,  for patients to post cards, memorabilia notes etc. Lounges for visitors have coffee and snack machines, complimentary cakes and light refreshments which, if you want to indulge in, you can contribute through a donations tin – by the way the millionaire’s shortbread is to die for (and no that’s not intended as a poor-taste pun  though humour also has its place here) and second in deliciousness only to the strawberry tart – I have had my fair share of both.


I have always asserted that you can only get really good customer service by employing people who ‘get-it’ and this hospice has nailed this. As this is my second trip in a fortnight, I have seen shifts of workers come and go and regardless of this continuous change, the care and professionalism never falters. And this service is not just reserved for patients as there is almost as much attention given to visiting family and friends as that which is lavished on patients. 

 

No request is too much whether they want an ice cream cone or to be wheeled outside for a fag;  there is no judgement, no sigh of protest just a let-us-know-what-we-can-do-for-you-attitude. Since we have been here we have had counsellors and doctors give us individual and group feedback in small Zen room where patients and families can “spend quiet reflective time”, or if they prefer, they can stroll the gardens.

 

For people visiting from afar or spending nights at the hospice there is a fully contained cottage to use so that one can shower or catch a few hours of shut eye during the day. The doctors know when they give us feedback and stroke my sister’s arm with genuine care – it’s all about her, without forgetting about us. No sign of staff rushed off their feet – I have witnessed nursing and care delivered at its best and I am in inspired.


The hospice is a charity staffed by volunteers and payroll staff a far cry from the broken and spent National Health Service which my sister was subjected to before she got to this comparative Utopia. So she gets this truly world-class care experience which we would never have been able to provide at home. With an operating cost of ₤20K  a day (about P265k), providing this service doesn’t come cheap but of course we don’t pay anything at all as this is all courtesy of some state aid and money from benefactors.


I know that very few people get palliative care, especially to this standard, but as a close family member nears her death I am realising that care at this level is an essential part of medical care at the end of life. A peaceful death might mean something different to different people: For some they may want to know when death is near so they can have a few last words with the people they love and take care of personal affairs: Perhaps you want to die quickly and not linger:

 

Perhaps you would like to be at home when others want to be in a hospital where they can receive treatment for an illness until the very end:  Some people want to be surrounded by family and friends; others want to be alone. Of course, often one doesn’t get to choose. But, avoiding suffering, having your end-of-life wishes followed, and being treated with respect while dying are common hopes.


My sister may well have passed by the time that this goes to print but what a beautiful passage I have witnessed for her. It is what she wanted – every wish taken care of and every need met and her dignity intact. I shall be forever in awe of the people who make this work their passion and the difference they make to the world and those leaving it.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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