'Irresponsible and reckless', Tufton fires back at Campbell
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has fired back at stinging criticisms from the parliamentary Opposition that his “colossal failure” in tackling the outbreak of dengue in Jamaica “has led to much suffering and deaths.”
“Accusing the technocrats of the MOH [Ministry of Health] and myself for that matter, of being responsible for dengue deaths at Bustamante Hospital is irresponsible and reckless, to put it mildly,” Tufton told The Gleaner today.
Opposition spokesman for health Dr Dayton Campbell, in a statement yesterday, charged that Jamaica recorded 177 suspected cases of dengue in 2017.
By comparison, he said there were 412 suspected cases between January and November 17 last year, an increase of close to 130 per cent.
According to Dr Campbell, that number worsened by December 14 “when there were 560 reported cases.”
He said despite the increase, Tufton and senior officials at the health ministry “continued to deny that there was an outbreak of dengue in Jamaica.”
“This was a colossal failure by Dr Tufton which has led to much suffering and deaths,” he charged.
However, Tufton defended his ministry’s handling of the dengue outbreak and chided Campbell for his utterances.
“While I understand his desire and political motivation to apportion blame, I could only have hoped that his medical training would cause him to act more responsibly in the assertions he makes, particularly as it relates to people’s lives and the work done by thousands of health care workers in our public health system,” Tufton said.
He said Campbell, who is a medical doctor, should know that dengue is endemic to Jamaica, with surges of cases occurring every two to four years.
The last surge, according to the health minister, occurred in 2016 when over 2,600 confirmed or suspected cases were recorded.
He says the surge for 2018 saw just over 800 cases.
“Just based on those numbers one could argue that the MOH team and its partners have done a better job this time around in containing an expected outbreak this time around,” he asserted.
Dr Tufton says this was accomplished through closer monitoring of the situation and responding to the trends that were observed from last September.
He says the responses include the hiring of 1,000 temporary vector aid workers to carry out home visits aimed at identifying breeding sites as well as water treatment exercises and public education.
“In the last few months we stepped up the programme with extended opening hours of health centres and additional public education programmes. One thing is clear, we have been vocal and transparent about what has been happening,” Tufton insisted.
“I have had several occasions to speak to the media about the numbers and the trends and have always made it clear that the trends we pointing to a more active season than the year before,” he said.