Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday at The Wexford hotel in Montego Bay following a tour of the facility, the Opposition Leader demanded that Prime Minister Andrew Holness address the issue of the problem-plagued Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH), saying that the head of Government needs to speak to the one-year delay in implementing a Ministry of Health recommendation to evacuate the facility.
This, Phillips said, is important because someone should be held responsible for the health problems experienced by hospital staff since the recommendation was made.
“Who is going to be accountable to the people of Jamaica for the overturning of the recommendation; of the adverse, in fact, disastrous, consequences to the health of the people of the country? There must be someone held accountable, and ultimately it is an issue that the prime minister must address,” Dr Phillips lamented.
“The second issue is that we still do not know the extent of the problem, and I think, at minimum, what we need is an independent public enquiry,” he said.
The Opposition Leader recommended that "In this instance I think the membership of such a board of enquiry should come from the recommendations of the Medical Association of Jamaica, the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, the pharmacology department of UTECH and our Universities, and the Nurses Association of Jamaica, their membership having been directly affected."
Dr. Phillips said the enquiry should be charged to "enquire into the circumstances surrounding the decision not to evacuate the hospital when the recommendation was made, They should also be asked to decide as to the causes of the symptoms that have negatively affected the health of the hundreds of Jamaicans who have used the Cornwall Rehional Hospital in the interim; and they should also be asked to enquire as to the the extemt of this problem affecting the medical staff, and the families and finally I think we need to understand how adequate the arrangements are for the rehabilitation and recovery of the Cornwall Regional Hospital," Dr. Phillips opined.
“We are saying that more than one year ago a recommendation came from the technical officials of the Ministry of Health that the hospital should be evacuated, and that after more than one year that decision, which was rejected by the minister of health, was proven to be the correct decision, because the building has now been evacuated. But in the period of time, which is 15 months or thereabouts, we have had hundreds of persons — medical personnel, nursing personnel, ancillary staff — who have reported ill; some with very, very serious complaints,” Phillips said.
We are all deeply concerned by the many reports of illnesses caused by the terrible condition of the Cornwall Regional Hospital. pic.twitter.com/YPwU2t91d8— Peter D Phillips (@PDPhillipsJa) April 15, 2018
He was supported by Opposition spokesman on health Dr Dayton Campbell who said that data show that “over 2,000 visits have been made to the staff clinic”.
“We also see in a report that there are cancer-causing agents that were detected in the building; and so we are of the view that, as the minister of health, having a duty of care to protect both staff and patients, having such report, you should have evacuated the building in a shorter time period. The recommendation came the 28th of February 2017, the argument that you could not have evacuated a building until April 2018, I am quite sure that no one here believes that,” Dr Campbell stated.
“If you are in crisis situation there has to be measures that you put in place to ensure that you protect the health of your workers, and also of your patients, and that is where our issue comes in with the management of the situation, not that the minister caused the problem, but the problem escalated in 2016. It is only one minister that has gotten a report stating that there are toxigens, allergens and carcinogens... cancer-causing agents in the building. Only one minister of health has received that report. No other minister before him got that report. Only one minister of health got a report that you should immediately evacuate this building.”
The Opposition Leader explained that on Tuesday he, along with a team from the Peoples National Party visited the facility and was met on arrival by the Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton who offered to show them around and discussed the nature of the problem and what was being done to mitigate it.
"During the course of the day, I can say that we saw, the degree of the catastrophe that has been caused for the people of western Jamaica because of the closure of the Cornwall Regional Hospital and in particular the main building which is in effect the hospital.
"This is the only specialist hospital, what they call a type A hospital that exist outside of Kingston and St. Andrew and it has caused a veritable disaster for the people in western Jamaica. And it has caused also, a bull to have to be bourne by the taxpayers of Jamaica which up to now has not had a specified limit.
"In fact, just this week, the renal unit, the section of the hospital that offer services to kidney patients and dialysis services, was closed because nurses indicated that they were suffering illness, and that, accodring to the minister has involved an additional two million dollars a week to the taxpayers of Jamaica," Phillips lamented.
"What we saw at the hospital was a degree of human suffering that still remains the effect of the delayed decision making by the government in addressing this problem. We saw a gentleman for example who had been on a chair and without a bed for two weeks having had surgery on his foot.
The PNP President lauded the work of the Cornwall Regional staff for their efforts to hold together a difficult situation in the face of tremendous odds.
"Despite the valiant effort of the staff, the doctors, and the nurses, among others, there is considerable human suffering that is taking place because of the manner in which decisions were made," Dr. Phillips declared.
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