Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dead Man Walking? Look Who's Talking.

When I first read in the Nation the stories over the weekend about the man who alleged that he had woken up in the morgue at the QEH, I had to stifle a big giggle. It was Halloween on Saturday and of all the stories to come out around that time, one like that had to be a winner. But, I swore to myself that over my dead body would I get involved in commenting on this developing saga. As I read about the man, I had to rub my eyes. He was well known as a man who did car washing. Naturally enough, those who knew him called him 'Bucket' as he was always with a bucket. So did he really kick the bucket in the QEH?

I certainly did not expect to have to face questions on the matter on the radio. Well, you cannot foretell the future and as luck had it, I got a request from Pat Hoyos, one of the call-in moderators to 'keep him company' in the studio yesterday. "It would be good if you could give some advice to small business people...and you can give us your view on how to get out of our economic problems," was how he sold to me. I could handle that. But I was quickly and acutely aware as I entered the studio that the people's business was not about the deadly serious issues of finance and economics yesterday but about something happening on whether a man walked out of the morgue and traipsed over nearly half of Barbados with only a huge pamper on and a tag on his toe. My mind was boggled already.

If you have not been following the trail of Reynzill Lorenzo Scantlebury then do not feel left out. Everyone else has. One lady, in her 80s, told of a man from Sargeant's Village who was known as 'Dead Reg'lar' because he was often waking up in the morgue. Another caller told about how things like this happened more when medicine was less developed. Given the other subject of the day--the worryingly loose handrails in the new Supreme Court--I sensed that people were concerned that they would find themselves having to go to hospital and all of their fears were captured by the scantily clad Mr. Scantlebury's tale.

One of my comments on the radio yesterday was that the facts of the story, which allegedly happened around September 20-21, should have come to light much quicker than they did. Well, today's papers reflect that the hospital management have had time to review its records and procedures and give us the unvarnished truth (see Nation report). But their press statement just adds more fuel by talking about the 'improbability...[of] being able to release himself from the morgue following an alleged pronouncement of death.' So, they do not say that it did not happen, but that it's very unlikely that it happened. Well, sorry guys, that we knew already. Is this semantics about some antics?

In fairness, the QEH seems to have enough evidence that the man did not go through the hospital as he claimed, after suffering an epileptic fit, but they just leave us confused. The QEH CEO even mentioned the existence of 'stringent security arrangements for managing the morgue with the use of closed circuit television'. The films have no ghostly images on them, we are told. They seem to lock it up by telling us that the QEH has 'electronic security system and that no diapers were placed on the deceased taken to the morgue'. So, I am about to give this one to the QEH by a short head. But hold on.

The hospital's communications specialist Katrinah Best takes us right back to the start, and makes us wonder about her holding that title. According to the Nation, "She noted that ... The hospital, while admitting that Scantlebury was seen in the Accident & Emergency Department on September 20 at 4:57 p.m., maintained that he was not a patient of the hospital because he was not admitted to a ward. They said he was released on September 21 at 4:30." Who cares if he was 'admitted'? He was there; on a blessed ward or not doesn't matter. Ms. Best is the same person who was reported at the weekend to have said the hospital did not have a Reynzill Scantlebury on record, but did have a record of another man who had died, also a Scantlebury, whose first name was close to his and who had Lorenzo as a middle name. Looks like a duck? Walks like a duck? That is what a communication specialist at work offers us?

The CEO had said "Our investigation substantiates that Mr Scantlebury has never been pronounced dead, or admitted to the hospital morgue over the eight-week period that has been indicated to us." Here we go again: 'not pronounced dead' does not mean that he was not taken for dead in most people's minds. That he was not 'admitted' to the morgue does not mean that he was not put there. The Head of the Accident and Emergency Department said that if someone goes to the hospital seeking medical attention through his department are also 'considered admissions' (see Advocate report alongside). So, come on, people, take another turn and get it right. Mr. Scantlebury has already indicated that he has sought legal advice and this may go to court. I cannot wait.

Barbados is trying to mount all forms of new tourism ideas, and medical tourism is in vogue. Imagine if the country could market itself as where you can go to hospital dead and walk out alive?


Sargeant said...

I don’t think that anyone thought that Bucket had actually kicked the …Bucket. Unless I missed it Bucket did not mention that he felt cold and morgues are not tropical paradises and since many Bajans don’t like to go to the beach between Jan and March (because the water is too cold) he would have noticed the difference in temperature. Another thing he would have noticed is the smell in the room where the bodies are kept and as someone who had to attend the morgue at the QEH in the no so distant past the smell is unlike any smell that you’ve experienced. Finally there is an attendant stationed at the morgue, I don’t know if the place is locked up overnight but that is a natural assumption and Bucket would have to “break out” or surely the attendant would have seen someone walking out who was carried in. In that case the story in the dailies would have been a whole lot different i.e. QEH employee runs 10 miles in 10 minutes etc…

Dennis Jones said...


The story gets more bizarre with each telling. The QEH has not helped by an inability to get its facts straight, and they do have records. We could dispute Mr. Scantlebury's account, not least because he had had an epileptic fit, but the hospital has not helped us piece together what actually happened.

I was not impressed by the lack of questioning that was in the press reporting. What happened to the other 'Scantlebury' of the very similar name, whom QEH said was deemed dead? Is he now buried?

Dennis Jones said...

Today's Nation (http://www.nationnews.com/news/local/no-kicking-bucket) reports that the other Scantlebury (aged 49, not 46--the age of the 'walking dead' man) died at QEH on October 4 and was taken away for burial on October 9 by Earl's Funeral Home. His first name is being withheld (QEH had said it was similar to the 'dead' man's and that both also had the middle name, Lorenzo).

Sargeant said...

The reporting or lack of proofreading speaks for itself when you get a sentence with the following “The refrigerators which are about two feet in length vertically”…..

Dennis Jones said...

I did not catch all of Brass Tacks yesterday, with Carl Moore and Tony Marshall discussing journalism standards, but heard plenty of calls by both for improvements, and one caller lamenting that the media are not doing anything to inform and educate, but just sell copy by regurgitation. Cannot argue much with that. Part of the willingness to accept mediocrity and be complacent.

Sargeant said...

The dailies are slowly awakening from their slumber and its no small thanks to the blogs; no matter what their representatives say the media pays attention to the criticism leveled on them by the blogs. The Advocate has taken a small step by opening its archives albeit there is some ways to go since they want you to register to access their archives.

The Nation has started to accept comments on some articles but they are solely lacking in the content provided in their digital edition, one gets the impression they are publishing solely for a consumer who purchases the hard copy and the Internet edition is an afterthought.

Dennis Jones said...

I agree that the print media are moving, but I am not convinced about the why. They have plenty of good examples of how good news reporting is done with only a small turn of the head or a quick trawl around the hemisphere.

I registered for the Advocate archives earlier this week and am still awaiting the e-mail with instructions. I thought it would have been an auto-reply, but the delay suggests either some vetting or it's just not functioning.

The Nation online is a mess, and 'afterthought' is being generous. The content is very patchy; at least with the Advocate you can see the whole paper in JPEG format on the day.

Both are disasters when it comes to searching for reports they have printed.