Sectoral Debate: Ferguson cries foul
HEALTH MINISTER Dr Fenton Ferguson believes that he is the victim of a "conspiracy" that has been hatched to silence him as a result of his decision to take the fight to tobacco entities.
"Some of the licks I am getting now, and I am not afraid to say that in every country where tobacco regulations have come, there have been, in whatever shape or form, those ministers, who have come under significant pressure," Ferguson said.
The minister was responding to a question from a journalist at the weekly Jamaica House press briefing on whether he should continue to be a minister especially due to the fact that the chikungunya virus exploded under his watch as minister and that health facilities are struggling to get resources.
"What we have is a conspiracy, and I state that without reservation. Every time you talk, people go back to chik-v. You cannot define my period as minister of health on the basis of chik-V alone. It would be unfair, I believe, relative to all we have done since 2012," Ferguson said.
"The fact is, judge me not on chik-V that you and others have kept going back to. It is the Americas that was impacted by chik-V, not Jamaica alone. "I continue to be sympathetic to those who were impacted," Ferguson said.
A day earlier, contributing to the Sectoral Debate, Ferguson said: "I know there are still persons, especially those with arthritis and sickle cell, who continue to experience the effects of the disease.
"Please feel free to be in touch with our health facilities. I am happy that we were able to control this epidemic within a reasonable timeframe in keeping with that seen in other countries," he told Parliament.
The health minister told legislators that whenever decisions are made about Jamaica's health sector, a consultative process is used.
"I am not off on a frolic of my own when I am making decisions, pronouncements, and putting in place interventions to improve the health of the Jamaican people. I seek the services of the experts who are internationally recognised in their field to bring evidence-based interventions that will lead to long-term and sustainable development of the health sector," the minister said.
During his Sectoral contribution, Ferguson pointed to the fact that Cabinet has approved the award of the contract for the provision of two Linera Accelerator cancer treatment machines for over US$14 million, which he said represents the biggest investment in the health sector in the history of this country.
"That will bring the cost of radiation treatment from $1.8 million to zero for the most vulnerable," he said.
Ferguson also pointed to the establishment of four primary-care centres of excellence under his watch as an example of a solid foundation being laid in the health sector.
"We brought in 19 ambulances - the first since 2007 - with another 16 to come this financial year," Ferguson said in Parliament, adding that "we revitalised secondary care by spending over $1.5 billion in the first three years".
"The truth is, yes, you are going to get some complaints, no matter who becomes the minister. Health in any country is one of the most difficult portfolio, and more so when you have the kind of network of health centres and hospitals in a country our size," Ferguson said.