THE Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) on Friday reiterated its call for the resignation of Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, while ordering that a full audit be provided for all hospitals across the country.
The call, which was made during a press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in St Andrew, pointed to the revelation that 12 babies died from a bacterial outbreak at Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) in Kingston.
Seven babies died at the end of July, two died in August, another two in September, and one in October.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding described the situation as appalling, charging that there seemed to have been a concerted effort to not have the matter come to the public’s attention.
“The large number of mortalities of death that occured in July did not result in information flowing to the public, and indeed we are even told that the prime minister himself was kept in the dark for a long period of time, and indeed it was not until the whistle was blown recently within the last few days that this matter came to the public’s attention,” he said.
“There is a history to this sort of thing that is well known; past ministers have resigned when confronted with a similar situation of lack of proper care and attention within Victoria Jubilee Hospital, resulting in a sense that somebody should be held accountable at the top and the writing must be done,” he said.
A similar view was expressed by Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy, who stated that Tufton needs to “come clean to the country”.
“Why keep it a secret despite the fact that he is indicating that he is more concerned about the chaos it would create? The minister needs to come to the country and give us the timelines within which he knew, and why he withheld the information. The minister needs to come to the country and tell us whether other facilities have been affected as well under his stewardship,” he said.
“We are calling on the minister to have an in-depth audit of all the institutions. We need to know what really transpired at VJH. We know that there are shortages of personal protective equipment, and this probably is one of the reasons why we have seen what has been brought to light,” he opined.
At the same time, Guy stressed that in the same way the health minister would share positive reports regarding hospitals, he should also shed light on the negative ones.
“It cannot be an instance where the minister speaks highly and comes on the media and speaks about expansion at Spanish Town Hospital and University Hospital of the West Indies, which is good, but the bad news he decides to keep close to his chest and not share with his Cabinet colleagues nor his prime minister,” he said.
In the meantime, deputy spokesperson for gender, culture and social transformation, Patricia Duncan-Sutherland said the Opposition will offer support to the parents who lost their babies to the bacteria.
“As far as possible that we can contact those parents we will continue to support them through counselling where possible, if it is necessary for them, and also based on the own request of the needs that they have,” Duncan-Sutherland told the Jamaica Observer.
“Babies died, mothers cried, fathers cried, Tufton decided to hide and Tufton did nothing. There must be action and accountability in this respect. It cannot continue like this,” she said.
Meanwhile, People’s National Party General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell pointed out that Prime Minister Andrew Holness established a principle which created a precedence on which the former Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson was relieved of his duties.
Ferguson had stepped down from his position following a similar incident relating to the death of 18 babies at at the University Hospital of the West Indies and Cornwall Regional Hospital in 2015.
Campbell said Holness should utlise the same principle with his health minister.
“October 21, 2015 Holness joins those in calling for former Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson over the death of 18 babies at two of the countries hospitals as a result of bacterial infection. He said [former] Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should stop protecting Ferguson and fire him. I commend these words to Prime Minister Andrew Holness: ‘Sstop protecting Dr Tufton and fire him,’ ” he said.