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LETTER OF THE DAY - We have a right to know

Published:Wednesday | June 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

The reported shortage of intravenous (IV) fluids is of grave concern and must be addressed with urgency, but what is unbelievable is the reported difficulty The Gleaner has had in getting an official response to its inquiry. Such a shortage is a matter of public interest, and the public has a right to know whether such a shortage exists.

The Gleaner reports three unnamed sources confirming the shortage, all unwilling to go on the record with the confirmation. It reports the CEO of a major hospital, said to have run out of the fluid, stating on the record that she was unaware of such a shortage and directing the reporter to the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA). It reports being unable to get a comment from SERHA, as the reporter was unable to contact the acting board chairman, presumably the only person that agency could offer as a spokesperson. And then the response from the National Health Fund that The Gleaner should submit an Access to Information request, a process which can initially take up to 30 days, but can take longer.

A shortage of IV fluids could result in the deaths of Jamaican citizens. Whether or not such a shortage exists is known by the various branches of Government that we pay to be in charge of such matters, I assume. This knowledge is not private knowledge; it is held on behalf of the people of Jamaica and a member of the press should not be given such a runaround in its efforts to seek such information.

Guidelines for the dissemination

Guidelines for the dissemination of information held by the Jamaican Government on behalf of the people of Jamaica exist to facilitate easy access to reliable and accurate information, not as the official guide to a game of we-know-but-we-won't-tell-you!

In cases such as this the relevant minister must immediately issue a release, setting out exactly what the situation is and how it is being addressed. The release must provide a number of contact people who can answer any questions that arise from the release, and he must immediately examine how his ministry and bodies falling under his responsibility respond to inquiries for information on matters of urgent importance to the Jamaican people. Anything less is unacceptable.

Susan Goffe