In the past three years, I have had to ask myself several times if I am a citizen of The Bahamas. Let’s see, I’m still waiting for my daughters’ Bahamian passports, which I applied for three years ago and still have not received. The Passport Office has every document of mine, their father’s, and their grandparents’ documents even my mother’s death certificate. All that is left for them to collect is my blood because they have my fingerprints too.
But let’s fast forward to the present time. Most recently my latest spat of difficulties began when I attempted to register my children for school. On the list I was given, I never realized just how challenging it would be to fulfill the immunization requirement. Added to that, the slip of paper asked for copies of my children’s documents, but later I was asked to bring in the original documents. Don’t think I do not fully understand that people falsify documents; my issue is that I should have been told to bring them in the first place.
But back to immunization…
So I go to the clinic because I cannot afford to pay for shots that could cost as much as $110 per each shot at a private facility multiplied by three children. One of my daughters received the MMR shot before the Mantoux shot which is a screening for tuberculosis. She has to wait a month because there could be detrimental effects. Like I told the nurse, I am a parent with no medical background. Whoever administered the MMR shot should have been mindful that the Mantoux should have been given first.
Anyhow, so my son’s medical records were lost, and I retrieved his immunization records from Nassau only to be charged the $10 replacement fee although I was the one to get the information. The immunization card indicated that he had no booster shots at the age of nine, and after attending two schools in Nassau. Because the clinic was out of one of the required shots, my children had to return the following week. That day happened to be the last Thursday in the month, and unfortunately there was a Food Handlers Course being given.
I contacted the Dept. of Education because of all the rigamarole, so an Education official then contacted the clinic. I was told that the shots were available the day they had come, and that shots had been administered on the last Thursday and would also be given on that Friday to accommodate parents. So I went back to the clinic only to be told they are short staffed, and were only trying to be helpful but that I needed to come back again the following Thursday at noon. The rolling of the eyes, rude remarks and attitude was too much for me. Oh and I was told, with attitude, that the Dept. of Education does not run the clinic.
By August 29, I was finally able to register two of my three children only to hear that my child was placed on a waiting list, and that the school was not accepting more children into her grade level. Meanwhile, my two remaining children were still not up-to-date with immunizations so they did not end up going to school until mid-week. When we went back to the clinic simply to get their Mantoux results, we did not leave until after 1 p.m. for results! Like I told one of the medical staff, they could have called in the information to the school, or fax it to the school to put in their records.
The best option is to bring vaccinations back to our schools. Simply send a permission slip home to parents for their child to be vaccinated, and everybody is satisfied. The parents do not have to miss countless hours of work and the children are up-to-date with their vaccinations.
I went to the National Insurance Board for replacement cards as well. I filled out the application and went to collect me and my children’s cards. I was told that my children needed to have their photos taken. I told the representative I was not aware of that. She rolled her eyes, sighed heavily and told me that everyone knows that. “Well it’s obvious that everyone does not know seeing that I don’t,” I retorted. We were told to wait 45 minutes for the system to boot up, and finally my and my children’s photos were taken. Now this is what puzzles me – NIB insists that the children’s photos be taken yet they do not appear on their card until they are 16 years old. Now my youngest child is five years old. Can you imagine how different she will look at 16? I am certain she will need to update her photo, and the same goes for my seven and nine-year olds.
All in all, many of our systems are flawed. This letter is not a personal attack on any person or government institution; it is an observation that will hopefully bring about positive change. Can you imagine a person with a disability, an elderly person or a person who does not speak English well having to undergo these processes? Each place you go depending on who you go to can often yield different requirements – meaning many people are not even on the same page.
Like I told one of the persons, take time to listen. Sometimes we are so busy talking and being know-it-alls that someone can be presenting you with a viable solution, but it skips right past you because you are not listening or downright rude. I would like to see some changes as a result of what I have shared because the goal should be to make the systems we have in place more accessible, user friendly and effective for ALL Bahamians.