‘It will not be closed’ - Tufton rejects calls for a shutdown of Cornwall Regional Hospital because of fumes
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has rejected a proposal that the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay be shut down because of the recurring issue of noxious fumes, which has forced the relocation of several departments from the hospital's first three floors.
Addressing a town-hall meeting at the Montego Bay Civic Centre late last week, Tufton was adamant that the only tertiary-level medical facility in western Jamaica would not be closed.
"I am here to say to all of us today, having assessed the situation, that shutting down the hospital will mean people will die from lack of care and attention in this part of the country.
"While we can send people to Trelawny, Hanover or Westmoreland, those services that are needed in critical specialist areas are only offered here," said Tufton.
Tests run by the health ministry's appointed experts have concluded that the fumes affecting the hospital are the result of fibreglass particles from the ventilation system, as a result of attempts to clean the system when the problem of fumes arose late last year.
According to Tufton, his ministry has "put in place a system that allows the experts to do tests in each area of the hospital to determine what are there. They have already tested, and concluded, that it is fibreglass particles coming from the vents ... there is going to be a mechanism set up to provide a scientific approach to determining how one interacts with different parts of the hospital."
Tufton told stakeholders that the health ministry will not move to shut down the hospital unless it is determined that the level of particles in the affected areas is too high to safely work in.
"The concentrated levels of the particles are not life-threatening and, therefore, it is inconvenient, it is an irritant, but one could still function in that environment," said Tufton.
"We have to subscribe to a process that determines the degree of risk that we are taking when we interface with the institution. All of the positions we have taken have been determined by the measurement of the concentration of the particles that are creating a challenge, and the advice we get from those experts as to whether areas are 'no-go' zones or can be interacted with. We will not take a decision otherwise.
"I know that the utterances from some of the internal stakeholders have suggested otherwise, and they are well within their rights to question and challenge these findings."
The health minister told the meeting that while some persons might argue that the fumes create a health risk, and once there is a risk the hospital should be closed, there would be another set of consequences to deal with if the facility were shuttered.
According to Tufton, the Cornwall Regional Hospital has experienced 25 similar disruptions since 2009, although a proposal had been made two years earlier to replace the facility's air-conditioning system.
"There is enough blame to go around, but I am not here to play the blame game; I am here to find a solution to the problem, and to find a long-term solution in the interest of both those who work at the institution as well as those who depend on the institution for treatment and care.
"We all must take collective responsibility, and I am the first one to hold my hand up and say that I am now the man at the bridge. I am going to work with the team and we are going to fix the problem, and fix it once and for all," said Tufton.