Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Health authorities condemn Ferguson's critics

Published:Tuesday | November 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson.

Jamaica's regional health authorities have issued a lengthy statement declaring their confidence in embattled Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson, while condemning critics who have called for his resignation over the dead babies scandal. 

The health authorities reiterated claims from senior health ministry officials that the deadly outbreak which has claimed the lives of 19 babies is not "uncommon".

They also suggest that blame should be placed on "unhealthy" lifestyles, which they say contribute to the birth of premature babies who are susceptible to the deadly bacteria.

Nineteen babies have died in the outbreak affecting the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the University Hospital of the West Indies. 

Health Minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson.

Health Minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson.

READ: Another baby dies at Cornwall Regional Hospital, bacterial outbreak blamed


The Chairmen of the Boards of the Regional Health Authorities, unreservedly express our confidence in the Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, as well as in the doctors and other health workers at the several public medical hospitals, who, despite the challenges faced by the health sector from time to time, have been working tirelessly to deliver quality health care to their patients.

The Boards of the Regional Health Authorities take note that over the past few days, there have been unwarranted attacks in the media on the Minister, as well as our hard working and exceedingly competent health workers in relation to fatal bacterial outbreaks in the neo-natal wards of two of our major institutions.

We recognize that such occurrences are not uncommon in any hospital internationally nor locally, but it is as painful to us as it is to the families to have any resulting death, moreso that of a promising infant.
However we consider it as downright insensitive and adding to that pain, when the memory of that pain is regurgitated and reiterated ad naseum in the public media.

Please remember that the families are still under our professional care in terms of clinical counselling, and please remember, also, that there are thousands of patients in our 25 Hospitals and over 300 Health Centres, being professionally attended to by our over 2000 health care workers at any given moment. It is highly irresponsible for elements and agendas to try to undermine this excellent service delivery which has made us the envy of the world.

We feel compelled to remind that the World Health Organization (WHO) states that worldwide, the main causes of newborn deaths are prematurity and low-birth-weight, infections, asphyxia (lack of oxygen at birth) and birth trauma.

READ: UN Reps horrified at babies' deaths ... offer support to Government

Fact is, worldwide, there is a wide range in the rate of neonatal deaths, from ten in one thousand (10:1000) in Japan to two hundred per thousand (200:1000) in Mauritania.
Fact is in Jamaica the rate is 12 out of every 1000 live births which we have achieved since 2013.

A review of the data at Cornwall Regional Hospital between 2000 and 2015 shows that over the past 15 years the neo-natal mortality rate at that institution has been less than ten per 1000 live births. The highest was in 2008 when it went up to approximately twenty (20) per 1000 live births.

This indicates that this medical team is on the cutting edge of medical care and has been doing so over the past fifteen (15) years.

We accept that there are weaknesses in the delivery of health service, which have been recurring over many years, due largely to the inability of our economy to adequately fund the service. But we maintain that a great deal has been achieved and that the Ministry of Health is committed to ensuring health for all.

It was only in March, this year, that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) commended Jamaica for making steady progress in tackling the very serious problem of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

There is clear indication that an unhealthy lifestyle is, in part, a contributor to premature births, which makes neonates highly susceptible to bacteria such as klebsiella. 

The attacks on our Health Minister, however, is not in the least surprising, as, while Minister Ferguson has walked in the tried and proven path of his predecessors, he has been unafraid to chart new paths.

One such path is the ban on smoking in public spaces, which has already been reporting massive health benefits. Data from the South East Regional Health Authority indicate that in 2014 there were markedly fewer cases of patients admitted with symptoms attributable to "second-hand" smoking.

READ: BUTT OUT - Gov't announces smoking ban in public spaces

Dr Ferguson has championed the crafting of a five-year plan which is being used as a roadmap to combat NCDs and their risk factors, aimed at reducing by 25 per cent, the burden of preventable morbidity and disability, and avoidable premature mortality, due to NCDs and injuries by the year 2025.

It was only in March, this year, that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) commended Jamaica for making steady progress in tackling the very serious problem of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

These attacks notwithstanding, the Minister is undaunted, and  continues  to pursue new paths particularly in primary health care because, as he rightly views it, Jamaica will not quickly have the discretionary income to afford the best that Secondary Care has to offer, but says he, we can compete with the best in Primary Care.

The logic of good, affordable and accessible-to-all health care in the short term therefore, must reside in the bolstering of Primary Care, as the resources utilised at Primary Care level yield higher health dividends than the resources utilised at Secondary Care levels.

Hospital care is expensive. Ask any private provider! Primary Care is prevention!
Hospital care is largely curative, and everybody knows that a gram of prevention is better than a kilogram of cure.
And that was why 37 years ago at the Alma Ata Health Conference, Jamaica's Primary Care system was copied by the world.

The Minister has created four Primary Care Centres of excellence. In those spaces, the roll-out of the best in equipment, technology, personnel, attitudes, and practices has begun. The objective is that these will be operated as models of the best that Primary Care can offer.

READ: Health sector to open centres of excellence

It is not only in music, scholarship and tracks that we should lead the world. We can and must chart new areas. Truth is that along that path we will have some failings, but to give up is not an option. After all, Health sees itself as not a sprint, not even a marathon, rather as a decathlon, where the final score, rather than the individual activities, determines the outcome.

Just to reiterate, we are committed to working with Minister Ferguson and our very professional health workers at the various hospitals to offer patients quality healthcare.

While our sights are set on ensuring our country fulfills its national vision of “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business,” we recognize that the delivery of acceptable healthcare is current and ongoing, in keeping with the health sector’s vision of “Healthy lifestyles in a healthy environment producing healthy people”.

The health authorities:

South East Regional Health Authority

North East Regional Health Authority

Western Regional Health Authority

Southern Regional Health Authority