Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Public defender has no shame

Published:Tuesday | November 8, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Does Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry have any shame? About two weeks ago, her dead-babies report was discredited in a way we have never seen a document from a commission of Parliament in Jamaica ripped apart and disgraced. But Mrs Harrison Henry hasn't bothered to attempt to formally, in a point-by-point manner, defend her disgraceful report or withdraw it.

Articles have appeared in the newspapers two to three weeks ago that showed the professional on whom Mrs Harrison Henry based her conclusion that nothing unusual had happened (Trevor McCartney) had publicly described the regrettable deaths at the University Hospital as a bigger-than-usual problem, as well as an 'outbreak' and a 'crisis', which required specialised assistance from the ministry, and later, PAHO experts.

Then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who had all the resources and advisers at her disposal, had also admitted that the crisis at the UHWI was an outbreak and abnormal by local and international standards. I find it stunning that Mrs Harrison Henry did not interview Mrs Simpson Miller or the several professionals and health authorities who had advised her and also described the situation as an outbreak and an abnormal occurrence.




It has also been pointed out that Mrs Harrison Henry's report, which claimed nothing unusual happened during June to October 2015, paid zero attention to the Cornwall Regional Hospital, the institution where most babies died. Incredible!

The public defender's report has the appearance of a whitewash. What is shameful is her attempt to blame the media for describing the situation at the UHWI as an outbreak when Professor McCartney, who was the boss at the institution at the time, had used that specific term. So, too, Dr Fenton Ferguson, then health minister, the then chief medical officer and the national epidemiologist, all of whom she conveniently didn't bother to interview.

Mrs Harrison Henry should resign. Her basic-school-quality report and failure to mount a credible defence have brought unprecedented shame to an office that was set up with the most noble of intentions.

Is she hoping the issues that have marred her so-called probe will simply disappear in nine days and be forgotten by Jamaicans, whom her office has slighted and short-changed? Where is Arlene Harrison Henry's sense of shame?