Thu | Jul 19, 2018

'We acted responsibly' - Tufton defends decisions in CRH toxic fumes saga

Published:Tuesday | April 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter
Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton provides an update on the status of Cornwall Regional Hospital at the Ministry of Health’s offices on Grenada Way in New Kingston yesterday.

Despite calls for his resignation by the parliamentary Opposition for allegedly mishandling the ongoing health crisis at Cornwall Regional Hospital, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has insisted that the ministry acted responsibly when it was first discovered that mould was the source of the contamination affecting the facility.

Defending his actions at a press conference yesterday in New Kingston, Tufton said the ministry, after receiving a report from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in March 2017, started minimising access to the areas where mould was found, as well as relocated persons from some affected areas. He said the ministry then engaged the service of experts to remove the mould.

The PAHO report indicated that there were 12 varieties of mould found in sections of the building. However, the minister noted that in some cases, the varieties of mould were not toxic.

"We acted responsibly in taking action once the knowledge was there that these contaminants existed and required action to be taken."

Tufton dismissed arguments that the management and ministry willingly kept persons in an environment that placed them at risk. That is not the case, he said, emphasising that action was taken immediately and persons were relocated from the critically affected areas. He said the problem did not affect the entire building.

Giving an update on operations at the facility, the health minister said services have been downsized to about 10 per cent of its capacity. The only departments providing services at this time are the cancer-treatment facility, the morgue, dialysis, administration and histology processing.

"Today we have engaged a process of relocation that has led to us now having no in-patients in the facility," Tufton told journalists yesterday. "We have relocated 33 of 38 services offered by the hospital," he said, pointing out that elective surgery services were now being offered at Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny.

He said renovation work had to be done at Falmouth Hospital on two operating theatres, increasing the number to four.

Additionally, a building had to be constructed at the Falmouth facility, which now accommodates 50 beds. Tufton disclosed that the Government was spending more than $500 million to fix the problems at Cornwall Regional Hospital and the entire facility should be reopened by the end of this year.