Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Attorney General reviewing Gleaner's request for health audit report, ministry begs more time

Published:Monday | November 2, 2015 | 11:18 PM
Of the 19 babies who died, 12 were at the neonatal unit at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

The government has asked for more time to respond to a request from The Gleaner under the Access to Information (ATI) Act for the health sector audit report.

On September 11, The Gleaner wrote to Vinnese Cameron-Dias, the director of documentation, information and access services in the health ministry, requesting the document.

Under the Act, the ministry had 30 days (up to October 11) to respond to the request.

But The Gleaner did not receive a response from Cameron-Dias until Monday. 

In the response, however, Cameron-Dias indicated that she had replied to The Gleaner's request on September 28 — that's almost two weeks before the expiration of the original 30-day deadline — advising that the matter was being reviewed by the Attorney General.

She also said, the Attorney General is still reviewing the request.

By law, the government has 30 days to respond to an ATI request and may request an additional 30-day extension. 

That 30-day extension will expire on November 10 even though Cameron Dias cited November 2 as the expiration date.

Cameron-Dias says The Gleaner will be updated as "soon" as the Attorney General chamber responds. 

She also said if The Gleaner wants, it may pursue an appeal under provisions of the ATI Act. 

On September 2, when Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson released a summary of the audit report, he said the full report would not be released because doing so could trigger public prejudices against health facilities. 

The summary of eight findings disclosed by the ministry revealed a host of problems including major defects in infrastructure and an inadequate supply of basic resources. 

READ: Summary of audit findings

Public demand for the release of the full audit report has intensified since Ferguson confirmed on October 20 that an infectious outbreak at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and the Cornwall Regional Hospital led to the deaths of 19 babies. 

On Sunday, opposition spokesman, Audley Shaw, released what he says are excerpts of the audit which suggest that the ministry knew about the infectious outbreak in the neonatal unit at the Cornwall Regional Hospital from as early as July.

Ferguson said he only became aware of the outbreak at Cornwall Regional on October 12 and at the UHWI on October 16.