Bustamante money still on ice
Tufton dismayed Shaggy’s $100m charity funds not disbursed; Packer insists foundation not budging on original intent
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has expressed disappointment that the $100 million raised by the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation (SMADF) from a 2018 benefit concert in aid of Jamaica’s only paediatric hospital is still in limbo. The...
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has expressed disappointment that the $100 million raised by the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation (SMADF) from a 2018 benefit concert in aid of Jamaica’s only paediatric hospital is still in limbo.
The charity organisation is operated by Jamaica’s Grammy Award-winning recording artiste Orville ‘Shaggy’ Burrell and his wife, Rebecca Packer. The funds were raised to procure five intensive care unit (ICU) beds but that project was put on hold because of a lack of designated space.
“The kind of suspense of not knowing what is happening is a disappointment from the perspective of the persons who are expected to benefit from it,” Tufton said in a Gleaner interview last week.
“I do believe that we should have advanced the process more than it is now, and ultimately, it is about the children, and while I believe that all (members of the SMADF) have good intentions – ... I have no reason to doubt the genuineness and sincerity of the intentions ultimately – the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the eating has to be the children at Bustamante.”
Tufton said that he has been in dialogue with Bustamante Hospital Chairman Kenneth Benjamin, to whom he had given directives to manage the process to ensure accountability and transparency.
Benjamin told The Gleaner that he, too, was disheartened at the delay.
“I am disappointed it’s taking so long,” said Benjamin, adding that the funds could go to several other worthy causes at the children’s hospital.
Benjamin said that he made a request for funds to be redeployed to purchase equipment for proposed new wards.
He told The Gleaner that a cardiac ward – outfitted with five ICUs – was built at the hospital through a partnership with the Heart Foundation and other stakeholders after the SMADF commitment.
Benjamin said he had informed the foundation that the need for ICUs was no longer urgent and that funds could instead be rechannelled towards to the construction of a new facility to house parents waiting for their children to get treatment.
“There was a need for five intensive care beds at Bustamante, so unfortunately or fortunately, they put up a new wing which was the cardiac wing where children have heart surgery, so they had, in it, five or six extra intensive care beds. He (Shaggy) said he had applied to the institution that gives you duty free ... . For worthy causes, you can apply to them and get it stated that it’s for a good cause ... . And he said for them to change that, you have to go and reapply. We said we don’t need the intensive care beds anymore, could we use it for other purposes at Bustamante?” said Benjamin.
“They were supposed to go and get amendments done to that relief of taxes that was specifically for those units. She (Rebecca) said she’d have to go back to them and amend it, and it’s a couple years now, and nothing has happened.”
Correspondence from a recent meeting between the hospital and the foundation suggests that there may be a tweaked plan to “procure medical equipment” for the ICU as well as to “reconfigure the existing space from five to seven beds, with two for the isolation of infectious cases”.
Hospital officials could give no timeline on delivery.
Packer emphasised – months ago and again last week – that redirecting the funds to another cause would contravene the provisions of the Charity Act.
Section 30 of the legislation bars charitable organisations from diverting donations made for specific causes to other purposes.
Packer has doubled down on her insistence that the funds would exclusively go to the project for which it was initially earmarked.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about. All I know is we are moving forward with what was promised, which was five ICU beds. We are continuing with that mandate and that’s what is happening. I don’t know what other information you got, but that’s what it is,” Packer told The Gleaner last Thursday, referencing Benjamin’s remarks.
Tufton praised the US$1-million donation from philanthropist Beverly Nichols that co-financed the J$309-million renovation of Chapelton Community Hospital in Clarendon. The CHASE Fund, National Health Fund, Ministry of Health & Wellness, and the American Friends of Jamaica also funded the rehabilitation.
Tufton cited Nichols’ donation as proof that public-private partnerships are feasible and desirable. However, he acknowledged that such collaborations were sometimes hampered by mistrust over whether donations would be channelled towards intended purposes.
“I want to say for the record that I respect and admire the efforts of Shaggy and his team for advocating for, and putting on, the fundraising event which they did. I’m sure they’re well-intentioned. I understand sometimes the hesitancy around how resources are used to ensure the purpose for which those resources were raised,” Tufton told The Gleaner.
“There may be doubts, but my position has been, if there are doubts, let us bring in the honest brokers or expand the team to ensure that the real benefits of the effort go to the children of Bustamante Hospital for Children.”
SMDAF had said that the funds are in an interest-generating bank account.
The minister advocated that there be due-diligence consultation for future charity projects to avoid a repeat of the Bustamante stalemate.
“I don’t know that one can be so inflexible, that there is no room for adjustment and manoeuvring. I’m not sure how those needs were determined in the first place, because I don’t know what kind of consultation took place. Truth is, if you’re going to promote a charitable cause for the benefit of an entity, then a needs assessment should be done in consultation with the entity,” Tufton said.
Benjamin, while agreeing, said that he is looking forward to the additional beds improving the hospital’s service standards.
“The population of Jamaica and Jamaican children is growing and the demand at Bustamante is always growing. We are the only hospital in Jamaica that has a burn unit, heart surgeries for kids and all that, so we’re grateful,” he said.
- Sashana Small contributed to this story.