Tufton says sorry to medical staff affected by noxious fumes
In the wake of recent reports from the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ) that more than 100 nurses have been adversely impacted by the noxious fumes at Cornwall Regional Hospital, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has apologised for the discomfort suffered by the medical staff.
"I regret thoroughly the fact that staff members, nurses and doctors have had to endure this process of irritation and discomfort over that period of time. I take no joy in recognising that reality," said Tufton yesterday during a press conference called at the ministry's head office in New Kingston to address the vexed issue at the hospital.
"Indeed, I really am sorry that they had to go through some of those experiences. The challenge we faced was how do we balance that issue with the need to provide the critical essential services, and that was the reality," he noted. "I do hope that those who have been affected will be understanding of that reality," he stressed.
The health minister showered accolades on the medical personnel who carried out their task by providing critical services that were necessary. "... I really want to give them significant recognition and commendation during that period," he added.
Quizzed by The Gleaner as to how the ministry would respond to possible legal action from persons impacted by the noxious fumes, Tufton said that he would not discourage persons from taking action that was in their best interest.
However, he said the ministry was applying a very compassionate approach to those persons who have been affected to ensure that their interests are served. "The extent to which they require support, that support would be forthcoming," Tufton assured.
2,000 visits made to staff clinic
At the same time, Dr Jacqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, chief medical officer in the health ministry, indicated that more than 2,000 visits were made to the staff clinic at CRH following the resurgence of the noxious fumes early last year.
The NAJ had reported that since the noxious fumes issue came to the fore last year, more than 160 nurses had visited the staff clinic with complaints ranging from rashes and headaches to weakness in the joints, among other things.
Bisasor-McKenzie told journalists yesterday that the ministry was in the process of collecting information through the staff clinic that serves as its baseline data.
"We are going to have to look at the baseline data; what are the common symptoms; what these would indicate and then to determine what is the follow-up that will be required for those?"
She said that the ministry had made contact with experts from overseas in occupational health who would be teaming up with local medical personnel to examine data gathered on persons affected by the noxious fumes and to decide which person would require follow-up medical attention based on the data. The overseas experts include a dermatologist, nose and throat specialist, and a pulmonologist.
For persons who develop chronic problems, the ministry said it would investigate to ascertain if they have chronic fungal infections and also explore if individuals exposed to the fumes have any levels of toxin.
"As persons move away from the building, we do expect that most of them, their symptoms will resolve," she added.