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Hospital Scandal! Doctors use plastic bags, called scandal, as aprons in operating theatres

Published:Saturday | May 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Dr Alfred Dawes, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association addresses the media during a press conference held at the Spanish Court hotel in St Andrew yesterday.

PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association (JMDA) Dr Alfred Dawes has charged that medical doctors are being given 'scandal bags' instead of surgical aprons to do their work in operating theatres in the ailing public-health system that is pleading for much-needed attention.

And if that were not enough, Dawes charged that operating theatres are anything but sterile in an environment that is teeming with fungi.

In a PowerPoint presentation at a press conference yesterday, Dawes showed images to corroborate concerns highlighted by doctors. He said that in the absence of standard medical masks, doctors have had no option but to use Ebola masks that they have been given to do their work.

He charged that there were no medical tubes to drain blood, pointing to makeshift ones in what he described as a dysfunctional supply chain in the public system.

Dawes said that the sad state of affairs at public-health facilities

is compounded by the constant opening of doors to the operating theatres, which should be closed to prevent foreign matter from entering.

Then there is the absence of slit lamps (an instrument consisting of a high-intensity light source) or the presence of malfunctioning theatre lights. In the midst of the medical calamity gripping the public-health system, Dawes lamented that

doctors are called to work in a flawed shift system.

He urged Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson to take strong action against Permanent Secretary Dr Kevin Harvey for misleading the nation in his defence of the shift system.


blame permanent secretary


Listing some of the deficiencies that have marred health care at public facilities, Dawes said that infection control was sorely lacking as anti-bacterial soaps are cut in half.

In launching a bruising onslaught on Harvey, the JMDA president painted a graphic picture of the plight of the public-health sector. Dawes said that the JMDA has pulled out of all talks with Harvey, including Task Force activities, until Ferguson initiates a probe into the permanent secretary's conduct.

Dawes accused Harvey of willfully misleading the nation and suggested that the unpreparedness of the ministry in relation to the chikungunya outbreak and Ebola threat may not be that of Ferguson.

Declaring that the public-health sector was in a crisis of mammoth proportions, Dawes complained that instead of seeking to address the maladies, the JMDA was being vilified.

After highlighting the gamut of symptoms to prove that the health ministry was in dire straits, Dawes's prognosis was that the operations of the ministry were, at best, lacklustre and suggested that regional health authorities were malfunctional.

He said that the notion of employing more doctors and doing some patchwork on the ailing public-health system would not solve the problems bedevilling the system.

Dawes suggested that with the proposed new shift system, the salaries of doctors would be slashed by up to 60 per cent after five consecutive years of wage freeze.

At the same time, the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesperson on health and healthy lifestyles, Marlene Malahoo Forte, has called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to intervene in the matter.

If not, Malahoo Forte said that Simpson Miller should direct the Ministry of Labour to handle the increasing worker unrest in the health sector given the very serious lack of confidence in Ferguson by stakeholders and the country in general.

Malahoo Forte's latest call came on the heels of growing rumblings within the sector that may lead to its lockdown as doctors express vehement opposition to the proposed shift system.

She said the shift system is reportedly slated to take effect on July 1, 2015.

Malahoo Forte noted that the already ailing health sector cannot in any way, accommodate any upheaval at this time and urged the prime minister to bring on board competent and level-headed leadership to resolve the escalating dispute.

Malahoo Forte said that with the appalling management of a rapidly deteriorating public-health sector over the life of Ferguson's leadership, coupled with his very poor handling of the chikungunya epidemic, the people believe that the minister simply did not have the wherewithal or the credibility to effectively lead this very important ministry.