MONTEGO BAY, St James – Dr Christopher Tufton has hit back at critics of the health ministry’s handling of a recent spike in respiratory illnesses.
“People can stay outside and look on and be critical. I mean, there’s always room for improvement. We’re not perfect. But I think up to this point we have done enough to inform the public to promote the protocols that are necessary to protect persons who are vulnerable,” Tufton, the health and wellness minister, said as he fielded questions from journalists in St James last Friday.
“The public health system is aware. They are treating the cases and where there is an overflow, there is a shared arrangement. And that’s pretty much what we can do at this point in time and we will continue to monitor to see what else can be done. But as of now, I’m pretty satisfied that we’re doing all that we need to do,” Tufton said.
Last week, Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy rapped the health ministry for taking too long to update the public on the types of viruses in circulation, despite having the capacity to conduct genome sequencing.
However, Tufton said that while the ministry will listen to criticism it will ultimately craft and implement a plan based on its own assessment.
“The analysis that we have developed to date is that we have observed these issues from early on and we have a surveillance mechanism across the country. We did signal in a number of ways that this was an issue. We included in that an early opening up of the UHWI (University Hospital of the West Indies) to deal with overflow from the Bustamante Hospital for Children, which has been on for a while now,” he said.
“We have conducted genome sequencing tests to determine the cause of the respiratory ailments. Some of it is influenza-related, some of it is COVID-related, and hospital systems have been on alert to deal with these cases. And, of course, we have communicated with the public and made them aware,” added Tufton.
Last Wednesday, the ministry reported that for the past two weeks there had been an increase in the number of patients hospitalised. The causes were said to be, predominantly, the COVID-19 virus together with influenza B, influenza A, and respiratory syncytial virus.