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Carreras fires back at Ferguson

Published:Thursday | May 14, 2015 | 5:00 AMChristopher Serju
Ferguson

Carreras Jamaica Limited has expressed alarm at allegations by Dr Fenton Ferguson that he is a victim of a conspiracy to undermine his status as health minister, 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," the minister was quoted as saying in The Gleaner on Tuesday.

Ferguson was responding to a question at the weekly Jamaica House press briefing as to his competence to continue as health minister, given the state of things, including his handling of the recent chikungunya outbreak.

"What we have is a conspiracy and I state that without reservation," Fenton added, prompting a response from the local distributor of the Craven 'A' and Matterhorn brands of cigarette.

"As the major player in the local tobacco industry, we view these comments as deeply unfortunate and suggest to Minister Ferguson, that instead of seeking to identify 'conspirators', he listens to the views that are being expressed and the quarters from which they come. The fact is, if there is indeed a conspiracy on the part of anyone to 'silence' Dr Ferguson, Carreras has no part in such conspiracy," the company said in a press release issued Tuesday afternoon.

"Carreras would, therefore, like to state for the record our total rejection of these assertions by the minister of health and to affirm that we are in no way a part of any conspiracy to criticise or highlight the performance or non-performance of the minister as it relates to his portfolio responsibility," it continued.

Christopher Brown, corporate and regulatory affairs manager at Carreras, expressed regret at the minister's comments, given its track record in support of tobacco on control regulations that are balanced, practical and enforceable.

"We are, therefore, deeply disappointed by the minister's comment that he has 'taken the fight' to tobacco companies, when we were never in such a fight, and indeed had indicated to him formally and in countless statements in the media our willingness to engage openly with him and other key stakeholders on the regulating of the tobacco industry," he told The Gleaner.

Ferguson has come under pressure in recent weeks over his stewardship of the health portfolio, with The Gleaner reporting a number of shortcomings in health-care delivery services.

In an article published on May 2 under the headline 'Hospital Scandal', it was reported among other things that doctors were using plastic bags instead of surgical aprons while conducting surgery.

In that article, Dr Alfred Dawes, president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association declared that the health sector was in a crisis of mammoth proportions.

Since then, he has ordered a comprehensive audit of the public-health sector to determine the availability of supplies as well as the challenges in ensuring adequate supply-chain management.

christopher.thomas@gleanerjm.com