JLP accuses PNP of 'petty politics' amid dengue outbreak
Dr Horace Chang
Stung by criticism from the opposition Spokesman on Health, Dr Dayton Campbell, the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has escalated its war of words with the parliamentary opposition which has questioned its management of the dengue fever outbreak.
A medical doctor, Campbell on Tuesday criticised the management of the outbreak by health minister Dr Christopher Tufton. Campbell chided the minister and the government for being reactive rather than proactive in their approach to tackling the vector-borne disease.
Among other things, Campbell said the minister ignored a warning in May from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) of a possible dengue outbreak in 2018.
Dr Dayton Campbell
“Not true,” said the JLP in a statement on Thursday.
According to the statement from JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, the approach by Campbell is an attempt by the People's National Party (PNP) to exploit the current health challenge being faced by the country for "vulgar political gain".
“Campbell, though a trained physician, his comments represent cheap petty politics designed to displace the incompetence and inaction of the former PNP administration, which led to an escalation of the Chik-V crisis (of 2014),” Chang said.
The JLP has listed what it said are the facts concerning its handling of the dengue challenge. These are as follows:
1. During the second week of May 2018, the Trinidad-based Caribbean CARPHA announced that while the mosquito-borne diseases, Chikungunya and Zika, which swept the region in 2014 and 2016 are not expected back anytime soon, the region should “gear-up for the possibility of a major outbreak of dengue fever in 2018”.
2. The Ministry of Health, led by Dr Tufton, took action during the same week of May of 2018, which was observed as Mosquito Awareness Week to increase awareness among stakeholders. The ministry also had meetings with various stakeholders towards effective planning to mitigate the possible effects of dengue on the populace.
3. In June of the same year, the ministry coordinated the intense recruitment and training of 1,000 vector control workers. During the same month and heading into July, the ministry also issued several media releases alerting the public to the need to pursue mosquito eradication measures in a bid to prevent and/or mitigate any possible effects of a possible dengue outbreak.
4. In July, the ministry intensified the retraining of vector control workers and training of temporary workers in conjunction with the HEART and HOPE programmes towards an aggressive search and destroy mission.
5. Between June and August, heading into December of 2018, temporary workers were deployed to engage in mosquito eradication measures. These workers issued flyers which contained information about destroying breeding sites, preventing mosquito bites, addressing symptoms of dengue and treating severe dengue. Flyers which contained warnings on relevant medications were also distributed islandwide.
6. In July of 2018, the ministry mandated the extension of the USAID-ZAP programme to July 2019 and expanded the programme to the North East Regional Health Authority. Previously the programme was restricted to the South East Regional Health Authority. Community workers acted on instructions to intensify public education exercises and also pursued the mission of searching for, and destroying breeding sites.
7. In August, the Ministry of Health coordinated the roll-out of public education via the media and secured the placement of radio advertisements on seven stations. Towards further sensitisation, advertisements were also placed on local television stations. The ministry also issued a media release which advised the public of the symptoms of dengue, which medications were recommended and tips regarding the avoidance of some medications.
8. During the September to December phase, the ministry and its agencies continued its dengue monitoring exercise and also enhanced surveillance. In November, the Pan American Health Organisation was briefed on the cases experienced in Jamaica. Between November and the first two weeks of December, officials of the Ministry did various interviews alerting the public to the impending dengue threat which had not yet reached the stage which allowed it to be accurately and scientifically described as an outbreak. The ministry also issued a media release about the active dengue season – and proffered further advice about prevention, symptoms and treatment.
9. A media conference about the dengue threat facing Jamaica was held on December 12, 2018. The public was updated about actions taken by the Ministry and given information towards navigating challenges posed by the fever. The country was also advised that there had been a significant increase in suspected cases of dengue. A media release about the issue was issued on December 19, 2018.
10. On the morning of January 3, 2018, the Ministry was advised by its technocrats that the number of dengue cases in Jamaica had reached the threshold where it may be scientifically classified as an outbreak. On the afternoon of January 3, 2018, Dr Tufton and the leadership of the ministry, held a media conference and advised the country of the aforementioned development.
11. At the first available opportunity, on Tuesday January 8, 2019, Dr Tufton addressed parliament on the dengue outbreak and actions taken by the ministry and its agencies to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.