By Alred Frett, Contributor
Hurricane Irma is almost a year old and those lucky enough to survive still complain of things getting worse as landlords used the crisis to have tenants repair and rebuild their properties only to evict or overcharge them especially when these victims have no means of defence.
During the formation of the new constitution, I argued for the inclusion of public defenders but that was omitted. So, whereas government has public prosecutors the people have no public defenders and seem to lose before beginning or depend on pro bono legal services from the same lawyers who may take on cases they know are wrong or meritless but from which fees can be collected.
I empathize with these victims and always try to avoid making myself the subject unless it can be used to help others.
That makes it difficult and uncomfortable having to address public actions and effects concerning a local medical complex.
Firstly, let’s blame no one for jumping to the conclusion that a landlord’s act to lock you out of this medical complex was based on monies owed, for this is a typical reaction, but this time it was totally untrue for it would have meant the Complex’s owner had failed Patients.
Local medical complex always belonged to the people
Bear in mind that the owners of this medical complex had always said and shown it as belonging to their employees and the general public.
This was demonstrated in their mission and commitment to making medical services available and affordable and more importantly, ‘seeing all patients and having no one turned away because of their inability to pay’.
Although most units and services remain open, the actions of locking down the female care unit directly interfered with the provision of healthcare and the landlords may have taken the law into their own hands, blocked patients from medical care, smeared the complex’s character and likely caused patients and employees inconvenience, distress and anxiety.
Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction so, even with all the expressed public concern, one must still await the Court’s decision. At the same time, with the public as stakeholders in this medical service, it is important that clarity is brought to this matter and it is prudent that every effort be made to access information from landlords, tenants or any relevant source.
Last year we weathered the storms but today we face another
Historically, this local medical complex is seen as the longest occupying tenant at the location and most BVI residents do not have to be reminded of the immense physical, medical, mental and financial damage caused to the BVI by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This complex along with its staff was among the surviving victims and like management many lost homes and possessions.
For months the territory was in a state of shock and hopelessness resulting in departures of many persons and closures of many businesses.
Nonetheless, this medical complex remained at the front of the struggle and in trying to ensure persons survived and rekindle hope they neglected their own distress and laboured daily at what remained of this complex so as to provide patient care.
For a while, they were the only active business in that location and the only functioning medical service in the territory … Their Landlord made it clear that they would not be helping them because they had no immediate intent to repair that location and they were focused elsewhere.
In addition, security deposits and prepaid rents would not be returned so it was up to them to help themselves. This happened at a time when BVIslanders lived from day to day under a state of emergency with no control of their destiny and virtually cut off from overseas connections.
The complex’s staff was facing their own hardships as countries were evacuating their citizens, government operated on a ‘cash only’ basis and the projected health crisis in the BVI was expected to dramatically worsen.
The outlook was bleak but the complex needed to make a decision
The complex’s decision was to remain open; not in order to preserve a business but to preserve the health and life of persons and they made sure that money was never used as a cause for refusal.
Many may have seen their staff working tirelessly to clean, repair and replace as much as possible without help from Landlords and may have thought the complex owned the property – they did not.
In fact, during this process, there was an extensively damaged and neglected unit that created a health hazard and encumbrance to their restoration process so they asked the landlord whether they would lease this unit to the medical complex provided the existing tenant decided not to return.
In the interim, they worked on other units while awaiting the response to their request.
The landlord eventually agreed to let the complex have the unit on the conditions that they would clean and ready the inside for occupancy and because the damage was so extensive they would not be required to commence paying rent before March 2018.
After receiving this approval and agreement they started the project and undertook responsibility for associated labour and material. It should be noted that although they provided all the work and supplies for all the units they still paid full rent as directed by the landlord as well as rent that would cover the said unit up until May 31, 2018, in accordance with the agreement.
However, an eviction notice arrived in March 2018 after the clean-up and restoration were completed and the landlord refused to discuss the matter.
When history repeats itself the people suffer
The landlord’s apparent decision to renege on the agreement showed no relation to the tenants having done wrong as is evidenced by the fact that the complex still has the most units within the location without incidents.
Furthermore, at no time did they dispute the landlord’s rights but simply asked for fair play and a reasonable time to relocate after spending decades at this location.
This is bigger than personal hysteria for as a people of Caribbean slave descent, BVIslanders are prone to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fibroids and other gynaecological and obstetrical medical ailments and no willful actions should threaten, hinder or destroy the health of these people.
We should never grow too callous to care for where there is no health there can only be death. management has been threatened to be sued for speaking truth but the provision of healthcare should be seen as a right and obligation where these services belong to the people.
We need facts and truth before succumbing to rumours from the mighty but we have no control whether the law will consider fact when the President’s lawyer, Sir Giuliani, says he is not concerned about facts.
Nonetheless, this should not be about President Trump, his lawyer, their white supremacist mentality or even a local medical complex.
This should be about fairness and justice for BVIslanders and all people in general.
We should feel comfortable believing the BVI is still a place where it is wrong to take the law into one’s own hands and right to await our own court’s decision.
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