Appoint a board of enquiry into Cornwall Regional Hospital

Thursday, April 05, 2018

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Pity the ordinary Jamaican trying to decipher what is happening at the ill-fated Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Mount Salem, St James.

While it is the duty of the Opposition People's National Party to keep the Jamaica Labour Party Government on its toes, for the outsider it is well nigh impossible to know who or what to believe in the blame game that is taking place.

What is obvious is that people are falling sick or dying at the hospital, with no clear-cut determination of the cause. In the midst of that unholy conundrum, sections of the medical staff see no other solution but to take industrial action to dramatise this intractable problem.

The 44-year-old Cornwall Regional Hospital is beginning to define the current term of Dr Christopher Tufton, the health minister, not because the problems originated with him but because he has so far been unable to fully manage the situation. The buck stops with the minister.

More importantly, it may also be defining the character and quality of leadership in this country. A hospital is a place of grief and suffering and death, all of which demand skill, probity and urgency of care, not the laissez-faire approach that seems to be the order of the day.

The prime minister seems to be staying out of the fray, either because he believes his public intervention might cause Mr Tufton to be peeved, or he wants to leave his former political rival to hang alone.

Of course, it is mostly poor people who seek treatment at a public hospital. But Cornwall Regional is not just any public hospital. While serving the entire western end of Jamaica, it is located near the heart of the tourism mecca of Montego Bay and it is the nearest type A health facility to the international airport and the cruise ship port.

We have a crisis awaiting us. If a major disaster occurs in western Jamaica, it is unlikely that the other nearby hospitals — Falmouth with its 90 beds and one operating theatre; Noel Holmes in Lucea with its 38 beds and no operating theatre; and Savanna-la-Mar with 200 beds and one operating theatre — could handle it effectively.

If we are to believe Mr Calvin G Brown, the former chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority under which the CRH falls, the hospital has suffered a lack of adequate funding and poor maintenance going back to the 1970s and that disputed ventilation system “died” from as far back as the 90s.

It is well past time for serious action at Cornwall Regional Hospital. The situation demands nothing less than the appointment of a board of enquiry, with a mandate to find the problem and recommend a solution within the next three months.

Going forward from there, it should be possible to include the operation of the hospital in the Vale Royal talks between the Government and the Opposition, in that way removing it from political partisanship. No Administration is without blame.

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