Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Editorial: To what end, Ministry of Health?

Published:Saturday | March 28, 2015 | 12:00 AM

We are somewhat puzzled by reports that the senior medical officer of health for the Corporate Area, presumably acting in the name of the Ministry of Health, has initiated court action against the local government ministry over its handling or, more accurately, its mishandling of the recent fire at the Riverton City dump.

While we recognise that the neglect of the country's major waste-disposal facility must surely breach the Public Health Act, we are flummoxed that the Ministry of Health has arrogated to itself the mantle of moral conscience of the nation.

Far from assuaging the distress of citizens who have been affected by the toxic fumes that have been spewed on them over the last few weeks, such seemingly futile action will only serve to confirm to the doubting public that the Government has no real solutions to the pressing problems that confront us.

Without concrete plans to reform the way in which garbage is collected and disposed of, without adequate resources to carry out the job, without competent management to see that the job is done efficiently and competently, such action rises only to the level of gimmickry.

People, including children, have been suffering from the effects of the inferno at the Riverton City dump. Is it fair to ask these same persons, who are taxpayers, to bear the expense of court action that really has no chance of ensuring that immediate solutions will be found and applied to the problem?

We submit that the real beneficiaries of such action will be the attorneys, who will collect their fat fees while the incompetent management and lack of resources will continue until the next fire.

Chik-V outbreak

As we consider the subject of public health, we cannot help recalling the grief heaped on scores of people and businesses during the chikungunya outbreak of 2014. The Public Health Act states clearly that health is a fundamental human right. Yet the Ministry of Health, which has been given the responsibility to protect the nation's health, failed to adequately prepare the country for the onslaught of the disease-laden Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The required public education was not done and the clean-up and fogging campaign came too late to minimise the impact of the disease. The result is that many productive man-hours were lost, people were sickened, and some with pre-existing conditions died. So should the Ministry of Finance now sue the Ministry of Health for that major snafu? Should individuals initiate court proceedings against the Ministry of Health? Could the private sector succeed in a negligence suit against the Ministry of Health?

But there is something that the minister of health can do. Rather than waste time with senseless court cases, the minister and his Cabinet colleagues need to hold up the mirror and examine their stewardship and decide whether they have been too tolerant of ineptitude, indiscretion and missteps.

One thing is certain: The Band-Aid approach to Riverton City cannot continue. The people are simply tired of the sloppy approach to the management of the city's waste. Radical changes in personnel and leadership are required, and they should be armed with a new plan to deal with the problem in a professional way.