The Parliamentary Opposition is calling for the resignation of Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton, citing what it says has been gross mismanagement of the health portfolio.
Speaking at a media briefing Tuesday morning, Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr. Morais Guy pointed to the shortage of bed space in hospitals, longer waiting hours at health facilities, the shortage of vital drugs at hospitals, and what he said was "perhaps the most serious highlight today" - that of the ministry's response to the dengue outbreak.
"My predecessor warned several times that dengue cases were rising and there was a need for urgent management, including public education and vector control. We have seen where upwards of 63 patients, mostly children under the age of 10, (have been) reported dead since last year as a result of dengue," he lamented.
Dr. Guy is of the view that Dr. Tufton should be held accountable for the problems plaguing the health sector.
"The performance of Minister Tufton clearly demonstrates that he's not up to the job. It's unfortunate that he's the Minister of Health and Wellness and his continued occupancy of the ministry forebodes a worsening situation, and for this country, an increase in mortality. The Prime Minister should now act to remove him and give someone the opportunity to rescue Jamaica from this imminent disaster," he declared.
Dr. Guy has maintained that there are inconsistencies in the figures presented by the Health Minister on suspected and confirmed dengue related deaths.
He said Dr. Tufton reported initially that for the period January 1, 2018 to September 30, 2019, there were 135 suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths - 47 in 2018 and 88 in 2019. Dr. Tufton had said then that 10 of these deaths occurred in September.
But according to Dr. Guy, in November, the Health Minister gave an update with figures that reflected lower deaths.
"If, as the minister claimed, there was an error, it ought not to have taken five weeks to correct it. It is our opinion, however, that the minister is not being truthful and the numbers being given are far greater than that provided by the ministry," Dr. Guy insisted.
In the meantime, Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton has said he is puzzled by the accusation from his opposition counterpart Dr. Morais Guy that the statistics and numbers presented in relation to the number of suspected and confirmed dengue related deaths in Jamaica are not adding up.
Dr. Tufton said the number of confirmed deaths since January 1, 2018 is 66, the majority occurring this year.
There were more than 13,000 notifications during the period.
Speaking Tuesday on The Morning Agenda on Power 106, the Health Minister said a misunderstanding about how dengue is designated may be triggering the Opposition's concerns.
"I am not here suggesting that there aren't margins of error in some of these numbers and how they are put forward because sometimes there are delays in the reporting. But what I will say though, if you take notifications that you pick up from a hospital or indeed from a parish without subjecting it to further clinical assessment, which is done centrally, where you refine the numbers, and by extension, the numbers come down, then you may be working with one set of numbers," he sought to explain.