Letters to the Editor

Calling for Tufton's head won't fix long-time problem

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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Dear Editor,

I read with interest Lloyd B Smith's column titled 'To resign or not resign', appearing in the Jamaica Observer edition of Thursday, April 12, 2018. Though I agree with the principle of a leader taking responsibility for his actions, I believe calls for the health minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, to resign “in the wake of the Cornwall Regional Hospital debacle” are unfounded.

For instance, calls from the Opposition spokesman on health, Dr Dayton Campbell, focus solely on Dr Tufton's decision not to close Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH). But has he or any other asked how CRH — one of the most modern of public health facilities in the island — come to be in a state that would require it to be closed?

Clearly, maintenance, or rather, the lack thereof, is at fault.

But it may also be argued that the lack of user fees has contributed to the ineffective maintenance of this building. This would again cast blame squarely at Dr Tufton if it could be proved that this did not exist before.

I contend that Dr Tufton's predecessors are equally to blame. In the late 1980s, approximately 30 years ago, I was part of a team involving the Ministry of Construction (Works) and Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) which inspected hospitals islandwide, including CRH, to evaluate the state of the nation's primary health care facilities. The finding was that poor maintenance was the main problem. This finding was presented to the Ministry of Health at the time, which was prior to their commencement of the Hospital Restoration Programme (HRP). The study singled out poorly trained maintenance personnel and inadequate resources being allocated to maintenance. The records should indicate what was done with this information.

The present circumstances would seem to indicate that whatever may have been done was still inadequate. So, rather than a “culture of ethics” being a problem, what needs to be addressed is a culture of poor maintenance. The older hospitals were designed to be naturally ventilated, not CRH. So, maintenance of this facility is more critical.

A number of floors were renovated at CRH under the HRP.

Of all Dr Tufton's predecessors, who can wash their hands of any responsibility regarding maintenance of this facility, and maintenance of the island's health care facilities in general?

The opportunity now exists for Dr Tufton to make sure this situation is not repeated at any other facility.

Paul Hay

Founder/partner

PHC Projects

Kingston 8

paul.hay@phcjam.com

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