MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Chairman of the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Region Five Kern Spencer is calling on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to address the nation about the recent deaths of 12 babies during a bacterial outbreak over a four-month period at Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH).
“We want a public address to Jamaica. We are tired of the silence. I hear the babies crying and I want the prime minister [to speak] because I know that something must be wrong why he cannot be speaking, and the Andrew Holness that I know, something is holding his mouth. And I say to the prime minister, don’t let anybody muffle you. Come out and speak…” a placard-bearing Spencer said near the entrance of the Mandeville Regional Hospital on Saturday.
The Opposition has been calling for the resignation of Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton following reports that 12 neonates died in a recent outbreak of klebsiella pneumoniae infections at VJH, Jamaica’s only all-maternity hospital.
In a statement in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, Dr Tufton said he learnt of the bacterial outbreak at the end of August and said the situation was eventually brought under control.
Despite the calls for his resignation, minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan told the post-Cabinet press briefing last week that the Cabinet had confidence in Tufton.
However, Spencer has warned that the protests by the Opposition will continue unless there is a satisfactory move by the Government.
“If we don’t get that address we will be taking to the streets on Monday. The people of St Elizabeth will be at another health institution echoing their voices,” said Spencer.
Former Member of Parliament for Clarendon North Western Richard Azan claimed that the Mandeville Regional Hospital “is having a similar problem” with neonatal deaths.
“I know of a case [last] Tuesday, where a mother and the child died here, and again, a friend of mine, his daughter was admitted here [last] Thursday… and the baby died. I believe that Mandeville is no different from any other hospital. I think Mandeville Hospital needs to be investigated also, and it is a similar problem,” said Azan.
He added that the shortage of health-care workers is a factor.
“I believe that the staff is overworked here, in all the hospitals, and they are short-staffed, and I think the Government needs to do something to save some lives of some little children,” he said.
Shameka Ellis, who is secretary of the PNP’s Manchester Patriots, said she lost her baby to the klebsiella pneumoniae infection four years ago.
“It is hard for so many women out there to give birth and then you are going to just look at us and treat us like we are nothing. You know how traumatising it is for a woman’s body to go through those nine months to give birth?” she asked.
“These dead babies and these parents who are going through the grief… there is no sympathy for us and I am talking as a mother who experienced it. I gave birth to twins and I lost one, and I was told, ‘At least you have another one.’ My baby caught this virus, and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, she wouldn’t have been four years old today,” added Ellis.