MEMBERS of the Andrew Holness-led Cabinet are reportedly standing firm behind their colleague, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, despite being kept in the dark for weeks about the deaths of 11 babies at Victoria Jubilee Hospital between July and September.
Tufton is facing increasing louder demands for his resignation from the Opposition People’s National Party over his handling of the situation but, in a clear indication that the health minister is not going to be dumped, minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan on Wednesday told a post-Cabinet media briefing that he continues to enjoy the confidence of his colleagues.
According to Morgan, Tufton provided an extensive report to the Cabinet on Monday and the members were satisfied with his explanation, even though he has admitted that he could have briefed Holness earlier than last Wednesday, almost two months after he said he was first briefed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness team.
“We have very full confidence in Minister Tufton’s ability to manage the portfolio. He has done an exemplary job in very challenging times coming through COVID-19. Also, he has been on a transformational push in terms of improving health facilities,” said Morgan as he pointed to work now under way at Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, plans to upgrade the Spanish Town Hospital, and work being done or scheduled to be done at other public medical facilities.
“So we have to, as a Cabinet, recognise the work of the minister and recognise the distinction between what happen previously…and what happened now,” added Morgan who argued that this bacterial outbreak in one of the island’s public health facilities was much better handled that in 2015 when there was a similar issue at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew and the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, which left 19 newborns dead.
Morgan said the present Government has learnt a lot from the mistakes of previous health ministers and Tufton has been doing a good job and retains the full confidence of his colleagues.
“In listening to the response from the minister, listening to all the facts that have come forward, the system worked,” declared Morgan.
“The fact is that in a public health facility that delivers about 6,000 babies per year you will have incidents such as these, where you have various bacteria that may occur from time to time, coupled with, as the minister has said, there are challenges as it relates to staffing, there are challenges as it relates to availability of critical care nurses and so on.
“What is commendable about this situation is how the Ministry of Health and its staff managed the situation,” said Morgan as he argued that the country should be proud that the health-care workers were able to quickly address the problem leading to a quick tapering off of the number of deaths this time around.
Morgan told the media briefing that, while there is a debate about whether the minister should have said something to the public about the outbreak earlier, what is important is how the issue was managed.
“I think expectant mothers, post-natal mothers, can take some assurance as it relates to the quickness and effectiveness of the management of incidents like this which will happen in a health-care system, especially one like ours that sometimes faces challenges,” said Morgan.