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Editorial: Don’t politicise H1N1

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2016 | 12:04 AM

We regret last week's death of Dr Suzanna Roye from complications related to the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, but warn against the politicisation of the issue lest it undermine efforts to manage the virus in Jamaica.

With regard to this issue, it is probably fortuitous that there is only a day to go before the general election. For, in the aftermath of the vote, one of the parties will likely be too depressed and sulking to have a go at the health authorities, and the other too busy forming or restructuring the government to be making critical noises.

In the event it is the Jamaica Labour Party that forms the government, its health minister, short of an immediate and wholesale dumping of staff, will have to figure out how to work with the professional team now on the job.

Of course, opposition parties have a right to highlight ministerial shortcomings in oversight of the health system or other departments of government. But it is another matter when complaints become irrational sniping in the hope of political gains, rather than because of genuine analysis of problems. Part of the danger is that health professionals are cast in partisan moulds and become demotivated and ineffective.

It is against this backdrop that we note the assurance by the newly appointed senior

medical officer, Dr Winston De La Haye, that there is an adequate stock of medication in Jamaica to treat the symptoms of H1NI, and that the other reporting treatment protocols are in place at the island's health facilities.

We have been offered no compelling

evidence to the contrary or anything to suggest that no efforts have been made to improve the management at hospitals and the broader

public-health system after recent controversies over their operation. Where there is a problem, it seems, is in the failure of doctors to accept the annual flu vaccine offered to front-line health professionals, leading, it is reported, to last year's spoilage of more than 1,000 doses. This failure means that many health professionals place themselves at risk.

Further, the management of H1N1 is not a new issue for Jamaica. We recall, for example, the deaths related to the virus in July 2009: 22-year-old Kareem Jabbar Leiba, and a baby born to a mother who was suffering from the virus.

Viruses have no care for the political affiliations of the humans they attack, and we are sure that sick patients don't care to have those treating them distracted by fear of attack rather than being fully focused on the job.