Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Letter of the day: Health sector in desperate need of a leader

Published:Thursday | May 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Open letter to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Is it that our country has lost so much pride, so much belief in self and so much decency that we cannot honestly hold anyone accountable for anything?

My query comes in light of the fact that the chaos and failings of the public health sector cannot frankly become anymore frightening for the many hard-working citizens of Jamaica and outside of Jamaica.

For one, when our doctors now feel compelled, albeit scandalously overdue, to comment of the wrecked state of public-health care and the failings of ministry officials,

Dr Fenton Ferguson should have months ago saved you, your government and the citizens of Jamaica any further embarrassment and resign from the portfolio.

It cannot be business as usual when the head of the nation's Medical Doctors' Association complains about flies in operating theatre, single-use instruments being reused, and the lack of proper surgical equipment. It cannot be business as usual when they complain about anaesthetic machines giving inaccurate readings, lack of sutures, surgical masks, syringes and even no pen, pencil and paper. It cannot be business as usual when air-conditioning units are breaking down, forcing them to use fans which result in sweat dripping in wounds, compounded by the now-perennial limited supply of antibiotics.

It cannot be business as usual when lights are not working in operating theatres, when the University Hospital canteen had to be closed because of infestation by rodents and insects, and when doctors have to wear garbage bags instead of surgical aprons! The stories are both endless and prevalent, I will stop here.

As it stands now, the health portfolio is the worst managed of all in your Government. Chikungunya wreaked havoc and resulted in multiple fatalities, including two of my friends, primarily because the country wasn't properly sensitised, despite the minister having the relevant information years before hand from a regional Pan American Health Organization-led workshop in Kingston, Jamaica, and his gallant display of buffoonery by denying the reality staring in his face and that mushroomed in his own constituency in St Thomas.

And it doesn't end there, the entire public health system is in its most squalid state ever, with doctors restive, medical personnel overworked, highly stressed and catching hell getting their already-low salaries and benefits in full; patients begging for attention and being forced to bring in their own medical and surgical supplies; excruciatingly long hospital wait times causing some to die in the wait areas, and rampant mismanagement by the ministry and its now-chaotic regional authorities, like SERHA, that have been hijacked by a slew of politically connected appointees.

The health sector is in desperate need of a leader that can work under very demanding conditions. Dr Fenton Ferguson and his team of technocrats (really, are they?) simply don't make the cut and their incompetence, mismanagement and reckless arrogance will be more than a footnote in history. People are dying, families are being destroyed, our health employees are at their wits' end and our country is fast becoming a joke to the world.

Madam Prime Minister, do something.


Medical consultant