ROSE HALL, St James - Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has expressed gratitude to members of mainstream media for their role in the dissemination of the Ministry of Health's message during the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic, at a time, he said, when social media was flooded with false information.
At one stage during the pandemic, social media was swamped with conspiracy theories, especially relating to vaccination.
Media practitioners in western Jamaica were acknowledged during the Western Regional Health Authority COVID-19 partners' recognition gala held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, last Thursday.
"Traditional media, we were able to dialogue more with them to clarify and to get information out, but social media was a kind of free for all and so everything that somebody thought up ended up being posted. And because of the penetrative level of social media, it tended to permeate through society and sometimes created a lot of confusion and disruption and misperceptions and so on," the health minister told the Jamaica Observer West following the recognition gala.
The media personnel recognised at the function were Sheldon Freeburn, Dwayne Young and Okoye Henry of the Jamaica Information Service; Christopher Thomas, The Gleaner; Garnett Beckford, TVJ; Kingsley Thompson, CVM; Phillip Green, Western Mirror; and Horace Hines, Anthony Lewis and Mark Cummings of the Jamaica Observer.
However, it was the island's health-care workers who Dr Tufton described as the "real heroes of the pandemic", who were the toast of the evening.
"This special recognition is to highlight to the country how special you are and the work that you have done and the successes that you have achieved. Because oftentimes we only see the bad stories, I know the media is here and I don't want to beat up on them because they have been good partners also, especially in the COVID response. But it's always more newsworthy when a baby falls off a bed rather than when a baby gets life-saving treatment. And sometimes we don't show enough of the positive and the good that we have done. And I think that we should use this time to reflect on some of those positives while we give thanks to what you have done," said Dr Tufton.
The health and wellness minister stressed that health-care workers usually make the news in a negative light, time and time again, while their good deeds go unhighlighted.
He also gave kudos to the United Nations for their unflinching support to Jamaica and hailed suppliers and other donors for their contribution during the pandemic, especially the European Union (EU).
"I want to just mention one fact, that the EU has been, and is the largest contributing partner to Jamaica's development in terms of donations, technical support, and otherwise. I really wanted to say that. I think it's worth mentioning. And that relationship will continue I'm sure…," he said.
Marianne Van Steen, EU ambassador to Jamaica, who was the keynote speaker at the event, also hailed the contribution of the health-care workers during the pandemic.
"I have been following the COVID-19 pandemic here in Jamaica and all over the world. The health-care workers here and around the world are the real heroes, your courage, selflessness, and your dedication, you were there when it was most needed. And I am very pleased that here in Jamaica your courage has been noted and that we are all celebrating your dedication tonight [Thursday]," the EU ambassador remarked.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness celebrated July as Healthcare Workers Appreciation Month.