Mayor of Spanish Town Councilor Norman Scott has lambasted the Ministry of Health for its lethargic response to the dengue fever outbreak gripping the country – even after prior warning was given by experts from as early as April 2018. St. Catherine has been hit hard by the outbreak, with two children, thus far, dying from the painful, debilitating mosquito-borne disease.
Mayor Scott bemoaned the proactive approach, or the lack thereof, from Minister Christopher Tufton during the first monthly general meeting of the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation (SCMC) on Thursday, January 10.
Mr. Scott, in responding to an update from Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Health for St. Catherine, Dr. Francine Prosper Chen, said there should have been no reason to have waited until January to declare an outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease, as the region was warned by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) back in April 2018.
“In April 2018, [CARPHA] had indicated then, that we were to expect an outbreak of dengue in the Caribbean, and so, the Minister of Health had a responsibility to do what is important, knowing that in 2014 there was an outbreak. In 2016, there was an outbreak, and thus, [he should have] taken the lead to make resources available,” he argued.
Responding to a call from Councilor Mark McLean (JLP) of the Homestead Division that the responsibility to tackle the dengue outbreak, lies with every single Jamaican, Mayor Scott retorted, “I’m not going to accept any consensus that it is only all of us in this. There is a responsible ministry and it took three people to die for them to come back and say ‘There is an outbreak’.”
To the chagrin of the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) minority caucus, Mayor Scott was adamant he cared little for what was said leading up to the declaration of the dengue outbreak. In his mind, being appointed minister, Tufton had a duty to safeguard the health of this country and Jamaicans and had failed to do so.
“He must take responsibility,” Mayor Scott said gravely.
According to the briefing given by CMO Prosper Chen, St. Catherine was one of the hardest hit parishes in the wake of the dengue outbreak, as the type III strain of the virus has proved particularly devastating to the nation’s children.
In the 2018 bulletin, CARPHA warned that countries within the region should “gear-up for the possibility of a major outbreak of dengue fever in 2018.” This, the agency argued, was because the pre-conditions of abundant mosquito vector levels still existed, added with increased reports across Latin America and elsewhere, of a re-emergence of dengue.
By: Gavin Riley