Dr. Tufton, in expresssing disappointment at the Opposition's criticisms of Government's handling of the crisis said : “I am not clear as to why you need an inquiry to determine what happened here. First of all, he was here and he toured with me and I tried to explain to himself and his delegation what has happened.”
According to Tufton “You have a legacy issue. He himself was health minister at one point and presided over the administration of this entity, which has deteriorated over time because of the lack of maintenance.”
Tufton's comments came yesterday as he addressed a press conference at the regional hospital after touring the facility with acting Prime Minister and MP for North West St. James Dr Horace Chang, as well as St James Central Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke along with health officials.
The Opposition Leader who along with PNP spokesman on Health Dr. Dayton Campbell and other PNP officials, toured the Cornwall Regional Hospital on Tuesday, had called for "an independent public inquiry to determine the reason for the over one year delay between the recomendation by the technical team to evacuate the problem plagued building and the time that the evacuation actually took place.“
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 and of the adverse, in fact, disastrous, consequences to the health of the people of the country?" Phillips asked.
Minister Tufton has rubbished Dr. Phillips'call noting that any inquiry should be into why the institution had been allowed to run down over time.
“If there is any need for an inquiry it is an inquiry as to why we have failed to maintain the institution over an extended period of time, literally over two decades, which has brought us to this point. I do intend to commission a case study on Cornwall Regional Hospital, and part of that is to determine why the lack of maintenance; what has brought us to this point; what are the lessons to be learnt; and how we don't get here again,” Dr Tufton remarked.
“It's not a witch hunt, which I suspect is what is being called for. It's not a politically motivated scoring of points examination. It's an examination about the caring for, the maintenance of our public infrastructure, and what needs to be done in order to avoid these things from recurring again. I think from that perspective, my call for an inquiry is a much more qualitative call than what is being done by the Opposition,” Dr Tufton continued.
In commenting on the issue, Acting Prime Minister Dr. Horace Chang gave his opinion for the 15 month delay in evacuationg the building: “Closing down a Cornwall Regional Hospital at short notice was never an option. The numbers given to you will tell you, 1,800 emergency surgery patients [last year], 500 out-patients per day, is not the kind of thing you just overnight do and provide the services for,” he said. “So that statement, if it even came from a professional, was ill-thought out and could not be implemented.”
In response to questions about why the relocation of services was drawn out, Dr Chang explained that, initially, it was believed that repairs could have been conducted on “the structure without emptying it”.
In the meantime, Dr Tufton told members of the media that last year the hospital did almost 1,800 emergency surgeries.
“Those are 1,800 persons who potentially could have died based on the nature of an emergency surgery. So when I hear the call about shutting down without alternatives, I really have to redirect that call and the question: What would have happened if that had taken place? The evidence is very clear that we would have had significant issues, including loss of lives,” the health minister remarked.
“I have listened to the concerns of the nurses and the doctors and I am very sensitive to those concerns. At the same time, the issue becomes what do you do when you don't have alternatives of providing a critical service as Cornwall Regional is providing?” Tufton said.
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