Fri | Jan 19, 2018

I want to fix it! Outspoken medical doctor back in public health system

Published:Monday | March 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM

"I just want to fix it," the outspoken medical doctor, Alfred Dawes, told The Gleaner when questioned why he chose to take up a position, again, in Jamaica's ailing public heath system.

Come April 4, Dawes will begin duties as the senior medical officer at the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital, months after his initial application was reportedly blocked.

The permanent secretary in the health minister, Dr Kevin Harvey, confirmed the appointment.

Dawes captured national attention last May when he presented pictures and gave descriptions of how some of his colleagues had to be using 'scandal bags' instead of surgical aprons to do their work in operating theatres. The health ministry, then led by Dr Fenton Ferguson, responded with fury, denying some of the claims.

However, Dawes' assertions were later confirmed by audits of the public health system, which proved that doctors were operating without the required basic medical resources, among other things.

In October, at the height of the 'dead babies scandal', Dawes chose not to renew his contract as registrar at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine and resigned as president of the Jamaica Medical Doctors' Association. In a subsequent, fiery speech, he lamented that too many good persons who have the interest of the country at heart were afraid to speak out for fear of being victimised.

He said it was not one authoritarian government that was driving fear into the hearts of persons who would not speak, but it was a "fascist orchestra with rotating conductors that has silenced critics for fear of reprisals". He also said then that "with this inculcated fear of repercussions, there is no surprise that only a few have spoken up about the progressively worsening state of affairs".

Dawes had left Jamaica for several months but was being re-engaged by Horace Dalley, who had replaced Dr Ferguson as the health minister.