Students walk out of boisterous House meeting

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

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A large number of students from schools in the Corporate Area and Clarendon walked out of yesterday's sitting of the House of Representatives as MPs on both sides of the aisle shouted down each other over the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) issue.

The students had attended to hear their MPs speak in the opening of the Sectoral Debate, which had to be postponed because the meeting could not move beyond the noisy and threatening exchanges, which followed a statement by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and lasted for over three hours.

Eventually, the House voted to suspend the rest of the sitting at approximately 7.20 pm after Opposition MPs rejected a proposal from Speaker Pearnel Charles to suspend until other matters on the agenda for the day were discussed.

The meeting ended with most of the House's agenda for the day not being covered, including contributions to the opening segment of the 2018/19 Sectoral Debate by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw; Leader of Opposition Business Phillip Paulwell; and Opposition MP Ronald Thwaites.

During the noisy exchanges, Opposition spokesman on health Dr Dayton Campbell claimed that Dr Tufton had misled the House with incorrect information as parts of his statement “were not in keeping with the truth”.

Tufton later responded that the exchange was taking a new turn, and added that he resented the “insinuations” being made by Campbell. He said that it was unbecoming of the opposition spokesman to be making the insinuations without any evidence to support them.

Things took a turn for the worse after the Speaker tried to contain Campbell's presentation and questioning within the limits set in the Standing Orders.

Paulwell insisted that since the Speaker had allowed Dr Tufton to speak beyond the 12 minutes allowed, Dr Campbell should be given similar treatment.

“I said that on this topic, because of the importance of it, the Speaker will use his discretion. That is why I did not stop the minister, and do not anticipate what I will do after that,” Charles explained.

However, as Dr Campbell continued well beyond the statutory time, Charles again intervened and sought an end to his contribution, noting that there were a number of other matters listed on the day's agenda.

Matters really got out of hand when Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Daryl Vaz suggested that Campbell should have declared his interest in a private hospital in western Jamaica to which he has been employed.

Vaz asked Minister Tufton to indicate whether or not he can confirm that Campbell is contracted as a doctor with a private hospital in St James where the CRH is located.

“As such, he may be conflicted in his strident calls for the closure and outsourcing of which will cause patients to have to seek emergency attention at a private hospital at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Vaz said.

He said that Campbell should have recused himself from the debate on the issue and disclose to the public his interest in the private institution.

But the insinuation drew Campbell's ire and after a shouting match with Vaz he said he did not get paid by the number of patients, but by the hours he worked at the hospital.

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