Wrong reason!

HMC's PNP councillors want meeting on dengue, not obesity

Observer West writer

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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LUCEA, Hanover — Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is facing harsh and intense criticism from People's National Party (PNP) councillors at the Hanover Municipal Corporation over a town-hall meeting scheduled for today in Lucea, which they say is expected to focus on obesity, and not the current dengue outbreak on the island.

The Ministry of Health in partnership with the Western Regional Health Authority meeting dubbed “Taking Responsibility Road Tour” with speakers including Dr Tufton and Dr Alfred Dawes, senior medical officer at the Savanna-la-Mar Public General Hospital in Westmoreland, is set for the Anglican Parish Church's Walter Hall in Lucea, commencing at 6:00 pm.

Despite the meeting being supported by Jamaica Labour Party minority councillors at the Hanover Municipal Corporation, Mayor of Lucea Sheridan Samuels and his PNP colleagues have blasted Dr Tufton over the staging of the meeting, claiming that “the minister is coming to Hanover for the wrong reasons”.

“So, if you are coming here, we could easily ask the communities to come out and listen to the minister to hear the plans that the minister have in terms of the dengue situation that we are facing within the parish itself. So, with all these arguments coming from the different councillors, I am in support of the fact that the minister is coming here for the wrong reason at this time,” Mayor Samuels argued.

The mayor pointed out that while he understands the importance of having a look at the health situation, the hope was to hear more about the dengue situation that is creating fear at the moment.

“Obesity is important, yes. I stop drinking soda now. I am drinking straight water, because I know that I have to look on the health situation itself. But, at this time, minister coming down here, we are expecting to hear from the minister with his senior doctor about the dengue situation that we are fearful of at this time in Jamaica,” argued Mayor Samuels, who added “just as how we hide the data from early, and we could prevent a lot of things, the minister is still hiding information from the people of Hanover about dengue. I can tell you that.”

Mayor Samuels was addressing last Thursday's regular monthly meeting of the Hanover Municipal Corporation.

Chief Public Health Inspector for Hanover, Patricia Hall Patterson, however, tried to assure the mayor that dengue will be addressed at the meeting.

“Obesity is just a part of the Jamaica Moves programme as I mentioned. So, it is just a continuation of the programme. But, before the meeting is held, there will be an address on the dengue situation of course. So, I am inviting you to be there, Sir,” Hall Patterson urged, to which the mayor responded; “You do what? You expect me to be at that meeting? I don't want to hear about obesity. Dengue is really my major concern right now.”

Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Hopewell division, Devon Brown, suggested that the corporation as a body could have its own town-hall meeting on the topic of dengue and invite the competent health team and the minister to make a presentation.

Mayor Samuels who made it clear that he is not against the minister visiting the parish, said he has questions for the minister, such as why he had chosen to visit a certain community in the parish last month?

He was referring to the recent visit by Minister Tufton and a team of health workers to Black Gate in Hanover.

Last month, Mayor Samuels accused the minister of 'playing politics' when he and vector control workers visited the community, as part of his planned trip to each parish, particularly those that are deemed to have a high infestation of mosquitoes, to see what additional assistance is needed and can be provided. At that time, the mayor and Councillor for the Green Island division Marvell Sewell argued that the Black Gate community was not of concern, as there was no dengue outbreak there.

Mayor Samuels and Councillor for the Riverside division Daren Barnes are also seeking more information on reports that the ministry of health will be sending $100 million to the local government ministry to assist in the fight against the spread of dengue.

The ministry of health had allocated $54 million to the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for disbursement to Member of Parliaments (MPs) to assist in the dengue fight, while $100 million is slated for disbursement shortly to municipal corporations islandwide.

For the month of January, the Hanover Health Department had received 31 suspected cases of dengue.

And while there is one suspected case of dengue- related death in the parish, the health department is still awaiting test results from blood samples taken from a 13-year-old student of Green Island High School — who reportedly died in January from symptoms of the Aedes aegypti mosquito-spread disease — sent to the National Public Health Laboratory.

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