Tag Archives: Health

#FireFenton – In the real sense


This is an urgent matter so let’s cut to the chase: Jamaica doesn’t have leadership…in the real sense.
We have the appearance of governance and leadership. The hype and fluff of a duly elected government with MPs and ministers, and senators and such.
Yes, we may have one leaders leader.
But not leadership.
See, if Jamaica had LEADERSHIP, there is a chance we would have been spared the constant cascade of catastrophe that is our health system.  And with a health system on life support, the lack of leadership has become a matter of life and death.
And death has reached our babies.
The flashing amber warning lights went off when I first read this article in February 2012. I found the following…curious, to say the least:
“…the health minister expressed surprise that the issue had been made public since he had met with the parties and the agreement was for media silence…”
Yes, they were referring to Dr. Fenton Ferguson, Minister of Health. Well, to be honest, the jury is still out on whether he can be considered a Minister of Health in the real sense.
Fast forward to 2014 when the Chikungunya Virus (Chik-V) brought the nation to its knees – literally. Jamaica was sorely ill-prepared. But, what made the pain of that entire episode even harder to bear is the fact that the Minister – yes THE SAME “Minister of Health” Minister of Health, Fenton Ferguson – was aware of a possible outbreak TWO YEARS PRIOR (as suggested at the end of this news report). And this – at a Caribbean sub-regional meeting in Kingston in 2012:


Believe it.

When, at the time, Jamaicans were sounding off on the fact that the Minister (*sigh*) did not have a grip on his portfolio, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s interpretation of accountability was to have the Minister assist with clean-up activities in her constituency.

Minister (if we can call him that in the real sense) Fenton Ferguson was saved by a broom.


On October 16, 2015, the nation learned (by way of Nationwide Radio journalist Abka Fitz-Henley), that there was an outbreak of some sort at the Cornwall Regional and UHWI Hospitals; an outbreak resulting in the death of newborns.

As if this bit of news isn’t disheartening on its own, try contextualizing it by the fact that Minister Ferguson is sitting on an audit he commissioned highlighting the sorry state of our health facilities.

The health audit came as a result of the revelation (in May 2015) of Dr. Alfred Dawes, former head of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, that doctors were working in unhygienic conditions with limited medical supplies.

In September 2015, Dr. Ferguson disclosed a summary of the findings. No details, because, according to him, “it would prejudice the facilities.” (Jamaica Observer, September 3, 2015)

That was September. Newborns were already dying as a result of a Klebsiella infection outbreak that their parents (and the public) were yet to find out about.


The writing was on the wall when, in every interview with the press, it was emphasized  that the babies who died were premature. I understand the increased susceptibility to infections in premature babies. What I cannot understand, and WILL NOT accept, is an insinuation and an attitude that suggests that these babies did not have a fighting chance at life at all. Because, you see, they didn’t die because they were premature. They died because of an outbreak of an infection that is associated with other Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs).

The Centre for Disease Control details how Klebsiella can be spread:

In healthcare settings, Klebsiella bacteria can be spread through person-to-person contact (for example, from patient to patient via the contaminated hands of healthcare personnel, or other persons) or, less commonly, by contamination of the environment. The bacteria are not spread through the air.

Patients in healthcare settings also may be exposed to Klebsiella when they are on ventilators (breathing machines), or have intravenous (vein) catheters or wounds (caused by injury or surgery). Unfortunately, these medical tools and conditions may allow Klebsiella to enter the body and cause infection. – CDC

So, it was just a matter of time before Dr. Ferguson, during his presentation to Parliament on October 27, 2015, said this (ad lib, in response to questions by the Opposition):

 “When babies are born under seven months, their organs are not well developed … . Their immune systems are significantly compromised, so I don’t want anyone to give any impression that these are babies in the real sense…”  (from The Jamaica Gleaner, October 28, 2015).

The Prime Minister’s response in all of this?

“I want to extend sympathies to members of the families, and I hope that the Ministry of Health and the minister will look at the present system to see what needs to be done to ensure that what happened will never, ever happen again.”

The Chik-V outbreak was in 2014. A broom saved Dr. Ferguson then.

And here we are today.

It is not enough for him to say he wasn’t informed. And how would he know? On October 27, when asked if the health audit made reference to newborn deaths as a result of poor sanitization, the Minister responded, “I’ll have to check.”

Wait. Did he not at least read the audit? The public audit HE commissioned and is now treating as his personal diary?

We cannot accept less than a resignation from this man. He accepts responsibility for nothing. His leadership of the Ministry of Health is weak at best – catastrophic if we’re talking in the real sense. Real change in the system must start with a change at the top. We cannot entrust the task of change with someone who refuses to even acknowledge his own responsibility as a starting point for change. A new system cannot be entrusted to someone who has overseen multiple (life-threatening) episodes of a breakdown.

He gotta go.


Nineteen families are now grieving for their babies for whom they had every hope and dream.

It is a grief unimaginable. And it is real.

– @MizDurie, @THINKJamaica


(You may also view this blog post on THINK Jamaica’s Facebook page here.)

Gambling with the Health of a Nation



As Jamaica continues to grapple with the effects of the Chikungunya Virus (ChikV), the Government has declared that it is in preparation mode for Ebola.

(A news report on the economic effects of ChikV can be found here).

At the same time, the Jamaican Government is grappling with the rapid decline of trust in its competence to address matters  of public health. You see, as more and more citizens fall victim to the debilitating effects of ChikV, it is becoming increasingly apparent that this is not a virus for which the Government adequately prepared the nation. Despite Health Minister, Dr. Fenton Ferguson’s attempts to convince us otherwise, we just weren’t ready. Hardly any public awareness adverts. No major emphasis on cleanup and prevention. Instead, we were caught off guard, and all our efforts seemed to have been reactive. In his own address to the nation on September 28, 2014, despite boasting about telling us that the Government has been preparing for the introduction of ChikV for two years (according to this Jamaica Observer report), the first meeting with all the major stakeholders together didn’t take place until shortly before his address, on September 25, 2014.

Public sentiment called for the Minister to be held accountable for his obvious mishandling of the matter. Prime Minister Simpson Miller disagreed. According to her, there is no reason for him to be fired…yet. Here’s why:

“I personally believe that Dr. Ferguson tried his very best, and…he’s one of the hardest working Ministers as well in a number of areas. If you’re having a cleanup he’s present. If you’re having something and it has to do with something like ChikV, he would pop in and he would speak to it to you.” – PM Simpson Miller, October 10, 2014 (Listen to the clip here)

Pardon? So his qualifications to develop policies, measures and strategies to address the outbreak of this awful virus is centered around his ability to push a broom?

Well…let’s talk Ebola, then!


So now there is talk of Ebola preparedness. The Government -through Minister of Information, Sandrea Falconder – in its attempt to allay fears and minimize the panic and hysteria that is usually associated with news of the disease, says this:

“This is new to us. Dr. Harvey is not the biggest expert. He’s probably the best one we have here, but he has never been immersed in preparation or dealing with Ebola before. We’re going to make mistakes. We’re not perfect. What we don’t need is that when we make a little misstep, that it becomes the only story. And the importance of preparing our people for Ebola if it does come here gets lost in the hype and the sensationalism.” – Minister of Information, Sandrea Falconer, October 30, 2014 (Listen to the clip here)


Nope. No reason to panic…AT ALL. I mean, it’s just a little Ebola, we’ll make mistakes. Just try not to let that be the story. Minister Falconer told the nation that in their handling of this, they will (so definitive, too!) make mistakes. Perhaps she doesn’t realize that mistakes, depending on how grave, could be a matter of life and death. How on earth can she expect the nation to entrust its public health to an administration which, instead of reassuring its citizens that it is vigorously researching and pursuing best practices, gives a disclaimer to deflect blame if…no, make that WHEN (she did say “are going to make mistakes”) anything does go wrong?

The messaging is already horribly wrong. Minister Falconer needs to understand that a disclaimer saying “We are going to make mistakes” has NO PLACE in the Ebola response strategy!

But don’t panic. Dr. Ferguson is still Minister of Health, and “Dr. Harvey is not the biggest expert.”


@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica