The cost of being right
When she whom we dare not mention by name, chanted Glory Glory Alleluia celebrating Dom Mintoff’s death, many, even die-hard Nationalists, said that they felt disgusted.
Surprisingly, even those who never had a good word to say about the man were suddenly of the opinion that no one should talk like that about the dead.
Whether they truly felt this way, or whether they were keeping up appearances, is anyone’s guess.
Quite frankly, death doesn’t change my feelings one bit, and I’ve only ever wished someone dead to end their suffering.
As I’ve already stated publically, had I to hate someone so much, which thankfully to date I don’t, I wouldn’t wish them dead, I’d wish him long term misery. Call in the psychotherapists if you wish, but if I despised someone to such levels of spite, I’d want them squirming in pain for as long as their heart would permit.
But I digress, so back to Mintoff - I don’t remember much of the Mintoff years, and I can’t for the life of me form a clear or objective opinion of what really happened back then. I’ve read every article, every history book and every blog; I’ve watched every documentary and news report; I’ve also listened patiently (and not so patiently) to people who loved him and those who loathed him, but, unfortunately, I’m none the wiser.
What I’m convinced about is that the bad was not so bad and that the good wasn’t so good either, that the truth lies somewhere in between and that it is entirely subjective and dependent on those whom you speak to.
There is something I do remember first hand however, something that has drastically affected my life and my family’s life, an angst that we will all have to live with, forever.
You see, the infamous doctors’ strike that started in 1977, coincided with my brother’s birth, and ever since I can remember, I’ve always been told that had there not been the strike, had the hospital been in good working condition, and had his Maltese paediatrician not been forced out of the country, chances are that my brother would not have suffered brain damage.
When my brother was born at St. Luke’s hospital, he was sent home with a clean bill of health, but within days, my mother noticed something wrong with him and returned to the hospital. She was promptly sent back home because according to the medical geniuses Mintoff had employed nothing was wrong with her baby.
The blatant symptoms persisted and she went back a zillion times, until finally, a Pakistani doctor who had already poked 700 holes in my brother’s little body, told her once and for all that nothing was wrong with him, and that if she returned he would lock her up at Mount Carmel Hospital.
That’s when my parents flew to Great Ormond Hospital in England and found out that my mother was right all along - my brother was suffering from hypothyroidism – a simple condition which would not have had any long term consequences had it been diagnosed in time!
Unfortunately, thanks to the doctor’s strike, and Mintoff’s hard headedness, the diagnosis was missed entirely, and the consequences were catastrophic - permanent brain injury and continuous health issues.
I’ve must have had this story repeated to me a thousand times, every time with a bit more anger, hurt and frustration, every time with more fingers pointed at Mintoff for not being reasonable and for pushing every decent doctor out of Malta.
Naturally I grew up detesting doctors and Mintoff pretty much equally, but truth be told, in principle Mintoff was right and the doctors were wrong!
That he handled the situation in the worst way possible is unquestionable, that his Machiavellian methods left innocent victims in its wake is indisputable, but in principle, he was still right.
Most, not even my parents, knew what the strike was about at the time, and even less people remember today, so here’s a refresher for those who like me have to rely on subjective sources of information - the strike was regarding the introduction of the Houseman Law which says that students who qualify from the University of Malta are obliged to work as Housemen in the state’s hospital for two years, after which they would be granted their full doctor’s certification.
This law has been adopted by practically the whole of the Western World. It ensures that medical students get some real practical experience before venturing out ‘on their own’, and it is also a way of ensuring that after costing the state an arm and a leg to train, medical students give something back to society ‘in kind’.
Back in 1977 the doctors protested against the introduction of this law. They went on some form of strike and true to his nature Mintoff put his foot down by locking them out of hospital. He then replaced them with low budget medical mercenaries from Czechoslovakia, Tunisia and Pakistan.
His stubbornness was wrong, his lack of negotiation skills were fatal, but in principle he was right, so much so that when the Nationalists were elected in 1987, they kept the Housemen Law in place, and it still stands to this very day.
But is the cost of being right always worth it?
As J.K Rowling wrote in The Half-Blood Prince ‘….people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.”