Stripped ... Ferguson out, Dalley takes over health ministry
HAVING RESISTED several calls for him to resign as Jamaica’s health minister, the embattled Dr Fenton Ferguson was yesterday shuffled out of the ministry by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, and replaced with Horace Dalley.
Ferguson, a five-time member of parliament (MP) for St Thomas Eastern, however, remains in the Cabinet, having been sent to the labour and social security ministry.
Derrick Kellier, who had responsibility for agriculture and fisheries since the death of Roger Clarke last year, in addition to labour and social security, has been relieved of some of his responsibilities to ensure Ferguson remains in the Cabinet.
“Ferguson will give focus to the Government’s priority of labour-market reforms, which are essential to Jamaica’s economic-reform programme,” a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said yesterday.
Dalley, who has served as minister without portfolio in the finance ministry since September, is returning to the health ministry, which he headed between 2006 and 2007.
Ferguson had come under immense pressure for almost back-to-back crises in the health sector, accused of poorly managing the issues, lack of transparency and poor communication. He was blamed for exercising poor leadership in getting the country ready for the chikungunya epidemic that brought the country to its knees.
The calls for his resignation intensified in recent weeks following the deaths of 19 premature babies who were infected during four bacteria outbreaks at two of Jamaica’s major public hospitals, University Hospital of the West Indies and Cornwall Regional Hospital.
Ferguson has been under pressure since he admitted that he learnt about the outbreaks in October, almost five months after they were first detected. A total of 42 premature babies were infected.
“In announcing the changes, the prime minister said she has listened to the recent discussions and expressions of concern, some of which could have the effect of distracting from the very important focus of economic and social reforms. She said the country must be united in purpose so as to ensure that the positive path that Jamaica is on will not be disrupted in any way,” the statement from the OPM said.
The removal of Ferguson from the health ministry could have implications for a censure motion that was scheduled to be debated in the House of Representatives next Tuesday.
On Tuesday, West Portland MP Daryl Vaz moved for Ferguson to be censured for “gross dereliction of duty” and called for the House to declare that it had no confidence in the minister and for the prime minister to remove him.
The release further said Dalley would continue the programme of improved health-care delivery at the health ministry. He has also been tasked to continue giving oversight to the remaining elements of the public-sector wage negotiations.