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Newsmaker: Tufton under pressure to resign over ‘dead babies 2’ scandal


The star development this week as Newsmaker of the Week has just ended is the admission by the Minister of Health and Welfare, Dr Christopher Tufton, that 12 babies have died of a bacterial infection at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) since July this year and the matter was not made public until last week.

In what some are describing as a stinging dose of karma, it appears the Andrew Holness administration is facing the scandal of its own dead babies after it castigated the People’s National Party (PNP) administration in October 2015 for the deaths of 18 people before -term babies in the public health system.

These babies died at University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) following an infectious outbreak caused by klebsiella and serratia bacteria.

Calls then, particularly from the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP), for the then Minister of Health, Chief Dr Fenton Ferguson, whom he initially dismissed as politically motivated, fell apart. multiplied after suggesting that pre-terms weren’t babies in the real sense.

Ferguson was eventually relieved of his portfolio and reassigned to the Department of Labor.

Fast forward seven years later and a new so-called dead babies scandal has emerged, with the opposition PNP calling for Tufton to leave, as well as a full investigation into the babies’ recent deaths.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was first reported on Nationwide Radio that “dozens” of babies had died at VJH following an outbreak of resistant bacteria over the summer.

It was said that the Ministry of Health and Welfare should turn to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for help. However, while this was happening and babies were dying, the public was kept in the dark.

It was also revealed that Prime Minister Andrew Holness was only made aware of the newborn babies’ deaths after the media was asked about it.

Tufton, appearing on the radio station on Wednesday afternoon, flatly denied reports of “dozens” of babies dying from bacterial infection, putting the figure at 12.

Dr. Fenton Ferguson (foreground)

He felt that a shortage of nurses could have led to the outbreak.

“The insinuation that dozens of babies have died one way or another is not the information I have, but every death is regrettable, and therefore it is not an excuse.

“We have the problem and we’re having trouble solving it, but we’re dealing with it,” Tufton said.

He went on to reveal that 16 babies had been infected after the bacterial outbreak at the island’s largest maternity hospital since July. Of this number, 12 died.

The minister explained that seven babies died in July, two in August, two in September and one in October.

He also revealed that the ratio of nurses to babies in the neonatal intensive care unit should be one nurse for every two babies. The severe shortage of nurses that Jamaica faces has upended these ratios.

“We are now at one (nurse) to seven (babies) and sometimes more. And that creates a challenge for infection prevention and control,” Tufton said.

As the Minister suggested, the situation was blamed on the failure of controls for HCV infections.

Despite their best efforts, staff were reportedly unable to bring the situation under control, prompting the Ministry of Health to turn to PAHO for help.

A PAHO team also reportedly visited Bustamante Children’s Hospital. Tufton said the PAHO report on the situation at VJH should be available in the coming weeks.

Amid those assurances, the PNP hit out Thursday, calling for Tufton’s removal from the health and wellness portfolio.

Dr Dayton Campbell

PNP General Secretary Dr Dayton Campbell led the call for the removal of Tufton, who described the Minister’s acceptance of the babies’ deaths and the trauma of their families as “callous and unacceptable”.

“While neonatal death from infection is not uncommon, a 43% death rate is alarming, and people need to be held accountable for this massive death toll,” Campbell said.

Seemingly referring to Ferguson’s resignation in 2015, Campbell said health ministers in previous administrations had lost their portfolios over neonatal deaths with far lower death rates.

The PNP Secretary General insisted that it is not enough for the Minister of Health to “simply publicly admit this tragic loss and stop saying that a high level team has been sent.

“This approach does not show any responsibility to the families of lost newborns, nor does it inspire confidence in future families whose babies may need neonatal care at the country’s first maternity hospital in the near future,” a statement from the ministry said. PNP.

The party held a press conference on Friday, at which Golding, Campbell and health spokesman Dr. Morais Guy repeated the party’s call for Tufton to step down over the babies’ deaths.

Said Golding: “The large number of deaths, of deaths in July, has not given rise to any information circulating in the public, and indeed we are even told that the Prime Minister himself was held in the ignorance for a long period of time, and indeed it was only when the whistle was blown recently, in the last few days, that this matter came to the attention of the public.

Mark Golding

“There is a story to this sort of thing that is well known. Former ministers resigned when faced with a similar situation of lack of proper care… which gives the feeling that someone should be held accountable at the top, and the right thing must be done.”

But Tufton answered calls the day before for him to step down as health minister.

Speaking in a radio interview on Thursday, Tufton said the Prime Minister would “make that call”.

Continuing, he said: “…Until he (Holness) says (I should quit), I will continue to do my best”.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness

According to Tufton, more work will need to be done in public hospitals to improve infection control.

The outlook on social media on whether Tufton should step down was relatively mixed, with some people describing the calls as mere politics, pointing to the important work the Minister of Health has done in relation to his handling of the COVID pandemic. -19.

“Tufton is not going anywhere because unlike PNP we remember how well he handled the coronavirus (pandemic). Let’s stand firm with Tufton,” Facebook user Camille Francis wrote.

Erica Guy shared: “A gweh dem fi gweh, if it wasn’t for Mr Tufton, Jamaica wouldn’t have a space to bury the dead. Uno too ungrateful, resign weh, it was here long before that Mr Tufton does not take the post of Minister of Health.”

Wrote Carol McIntosh: “At least Tufton called OPS, what did Fenton (Ferguson) do when he said they weren’t real babies? I don’t like hypocrisy, so s please leave Tufton.”

However, Facebook user Michy Marsh had a different take on the issue relating to Tufton and the bacterial infection.

“He (Tufton) didn’t kill those babies, but the mere fact that all of this information has been withheld from the public for months makes me wonder, what else is he hiding from the public?

“My heart goes out to those parents who have lost their babies. Until those same situations we’re all talking about here knock on our doors, that’s when we’ll understand the reality of what’s really going on on our little island. “, explained Marsh.

Seemingly agreeing with calls for Tufton’s resignation, Carol Morgan said: “It’s unbelievable that these ministers/people continue to hold their positions no matter what the disasters.

“We want Ja (Jamaica) to be like England where politicians can lose their jobs because of poor performance.”

Karen Leslie, a Facebook user, said the call for Tufton’s resignation doesn’t help the current situation.

“It’s within their (PNP) remit to do so, (because) the JLP called for the resignation of Fenton Ferguson in the ‘baby scandal!’

“However, this is not going to help! The country needs to know when the problem started, why the country was not informed, what is being done to help and improve the situation, and what help has been given to the parents of the babies . ,” she says.

Amidst it all, other people are strongly supporting Tufton to stay in his job.

“So what does the minister have to do with this incident now? Wouldn’t it make more sense to call for the resignation of the head of VJH?” asked Renard Raymond, another social media user.

“Mr (Dayton) Campbell, I believe you should resign as a result of this statement. I recall an allegation being made against you, you did not resign,” he added.

Amora Hanson said: ‘I don’t play politics… But they make it look like the man hurt the babies himself…’

In response to this comment, Dave Blair said: “I’m sure Mr Fenton (Ferguson) didn’t hurt the babies either. Remember it was the JLP who pressured Dr Fenton to that he resign.”