LALIT agrees with the Methadone program for people dependent on opiates and who want to wean themselves from the black-market drugs. It goes without saying that the dispensing of Methadone should never have been at Police stations nor taken the form, as the Report by the Commission on Drugs put it, of “inappropriate unacceptable backyard treatment”. Everyone is aware that it was a right-wing populist measure introduced by Minister Gayan, who lost his Health Ministry altogether. The new Minister Husnoo is right to move towards dispensing at the place that is appropriate, i.e. dispensaries.
The union leaders who claim that the Methadone patients represent, according to L’Express 9 August, “un comportement a risque” or “derangaient le bon fonctionnement de l’hopital” are making the mistake of seeing these patients as somehow less than human. Many kinds of patient represent a risk at different times: a diabetic patient whose sugar levels have fallen too low cannot just be abandoned by medical staff because he gets agitated or violent, nor can they be sent to a police station. Nor can psychiatric patients who find themselves in a state of panic or rage be put outside the health care system. Nor can even just plain violent patients be abandoned by society. It’s part of life to deal with everyone with respect. And this goes for union leaders too. They seem to know that they are making a mistake because their arguments shift the blame. One quotes “plaintes du public” as the reason. Another says, “Nous avons eu des cas de vols” as if this phenomenon of “cases of “ theft is not everywhere in society today in times of massive under-employment – whether in the home, on the street at neighbourhood level, at schools, or in hospitals.
LALIT appeals to all the trade unions to act in the best long-term interests of everyone and, instead of retreating behind a wall of police repression, to work hard at building an alliance with the public, who they serve. This is the best way to protect themselves from some patients or some members of the public accompanying them, who show violent behavior for whatever health or other reason. It has become fashionable amongst some trade union leaders (whether transport workers, school or hospital staff) to take short-cuts like this call for more repression instead of working out constructively how to serve the public best, and create the best atmosphere at work. In fact, it should be health workers’ union leaders who encourage all members to explain to the public that Methadone is a treatment that brings thousands of people out of a life of “trase”, “snatching gold chains from old ladies’ necks” and “petty theft” into the possibility of a life of more stability and integration.
LALIT first took a stand for the kind of normalization of people living with drug dependency in 1981. We have maintained this position ever since.
9 August 2018