Fiddling while Cornwall goes up in Fumes- a tale of priorities misplaced 

Noxious Fumes Force Evacuation Of Sections Of Cornwall Regional Hospital- The Gleaner, September 27, 2016

De-Bushing Probe – Contractor General Launches Investigation Into $600m State Project Days Before Local Government PollsThe Gleaner, November 25, 2016

Big Jump In Cost Of Debushing Programme – NWA To Face Heat Over New $800m Budget- The Gleaner, January 17, 2017

Tackling noxious fumes at Cornwall Regional Hospital to cost ‘hundreds of millions’, says health ministerThe Observer, February 17, 2017


Two months before the $800 million pre-election programme to bush the concrete sidewalks all over Kingston, the country was made aware of a dire situation concerning the air quality that workers and patients were forced to deal with at Cornwall Regional Hospital. Long before this scam which the GOJ claims did not seek to influence the outcome of the Local Government Elections, health workers were making the Health Ministry officials aware of a worsening problem.

Fast forward to February 2017, over 5 months since the September report on the air quality issue at CRH and 3 months after victory at the polls; the situation at CRH– worsening. Reports from healthcare workers on site suggest that every floor is now affected by these noxious fumes.

 The Minister, a few days ago, made us aware that the overhaul of the current ventilation system at CRH will run the country hundreds of million as if to suggest that the country does not currently have hundreds of millions at its disposal. I would have bought this attempt to “pill us” had I not seen for myself the many men and women decked out in green bushing the concretes of Kingston in the pouring rain as I made my way to Kingston Public Hospital daily- confirming that this $600 million turned $800 million project wasn’t a myth; had it not been confirmed that the government will be seeking to purchase a $700 million property from the Universal Service Fund, an initiative which is said to be unnecessary at this time; had it not been confirmed that some $200 million will be spent for independence celebrations in another few months; had it not been hinted at that a few more billions will be taken from the National Housing Trust by government to be used once more for an unintended purpose. So no Minister Tufton, we are not one bit concerned that the government is unable to find the hundreds of millions to deal with the situation.

While the Minister continues to build up his celebrity status on the various media available to him, I hope to remind him that there are real people suffering at Cornwall Regional– patients and staff, real people who have absolutely no idea what the long term effects of these noxious fumes will be. After 5 months, we are still unaware of the contents of these noxious fumes. Was there a comprehensive air quality study or was it too expensive? Was it going to cut into the election bushing budget? 

As the government continues to fiddle while Cornwall goes up in fumes, remember that there are real patients who either have significant delays in getting laboratory services or are unable to get these services at all. Be reminded Minister that your nurses and doctors have been collapsing and becoming injured as they contend with this untenable situation or coming down with rashes, headaches, respiratory illnesses– things which you will never face in your posh multimillion dollar government office with a modern ventilation system, budgeted for by the state regardless of any other financial constraint.

Health workers have now become even more fearful in a parish plagued crime and violence. One intern writes in a piece to The Western Mirror,                                                              “Integral departments… are no longer on the hospital but at the Mt Salem Health Centre… when you are all alone, in the dark and silence, at 3am, sent to see a patient in the Mt Salem Health Centre… not only does it seem far but it is unsafe. How ethical is it to expose staff and patients to these situations?”

It is indeed a case of priorities misplaced when a government will allow this problem to get this far out of hand even as it continues to spend unnecessarily. I would be much more comfortable (I’m sure the country would be much more comfortable) with NHT funds being diverted to solve the health care issue at CRH (one unintended purpose) instead of going to fund the prosperity train’s tax con (another unintended purpose) which robs from one section of society to pay for the other; with the independence celebrations being scaled down in the interest of proper health care; with the Governor General getting a cheaper car and that elevator being put on hold  or even with some of the Universal Service Fund’s hundreds of millions being diverted to remedy this emergent situation

The health of our nation cannot continue to be put on hold while we continue to fiddle with the scarce resources which we supposedly have. Cornwall Regional Hospital is the major hospital serving the western side of the island and should not have been allowed to reach a state where the entire building is on lock down due to negligence. 

The truth is, legislators will hardly, if ever, use these public facilities and as such, will never really understand or appreciate the daily woes that workers and patients face due to a failing system. So, while the Minister profiles and beats his chest after making big announcements, his staff on the ground will continue to feel the pinch and the health system will continue to go up in fumes–figuratively and literally. 

AK DIXON

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