By TOM GODFREY
A world-renowned trauma expert was forced to miss the opening sessions of a Jamaican health forum in Toronto after Canadian immigration officials in Kingston delayed the issuing of his visa to travel here to deliver a speech.
It took two follow-up letters and phone calls to the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica before Dr. Hugh Wong, a well-respected Head of Accident and Emergency Medicine at Kingston Public Hospital, was finally granted a visa, officials said.
“We are very disappointed in the way this distinguished doctor was treated by Canadian immigration officials,” said an irate Kingsley Gilliam, of the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation which organized the July 9 to 12 event. “We had to scramble to get a flight and Dr. Wong missed the opening of the conference.”
He even wrote to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander seeking help, but it was too late.
Gilliam, who is also president of the Black Action Defense Committee (BADC), said Wong was billed to give his presentation on July 11 and did not receive a travel document until July 9.
He had applied for a three-day visa at the High Commission more than a month earlier.
Wong, among a high-level delegation that included Minister of State, Arnaldo Brown, was travelling here for a Jamaican Diaspora Health Forum Canada that wrapped up last week at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
The intent of the forum was to develop innovative solutions to improve the health of residents across Jamaica, its organizers said.
“We had to write letters and call repeatedly to get him here,” Gilliam said. “It appears as if Canadian immigration officials treat all Jamaicans as if they will abscond.”
Wong has since returned home to his job as head of trauma treatment at Jamaica’s largest and busiest hospital. He regularly travels with no problems to other countries to train students and give speeches.
Gilliam said the doctor delivered during his 45-minute presentation.
“He is an expert in trauma care and people wanted to hear what he had to say in the context of Jamaica,” he said. “His speech had many people blown away. It was great.”
Wong is also director of Emergency Cardiac Care at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica.
Officials at the Canadian High Commission in Kingston did not respond to a query seeking a comment.