No more cover-up – Private sector, Shaw call for greater accountability over dead babies

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William Mahfood (right), president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, listens to Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association.

Two of the country’s leading private-sector organisations are demand-ing greater accountability for the tragic deaths of 19 premature babies, after they were infected during a bacterial outbreak at two of Jamaica’s major public hospitals.

Both the Jamaica Manu-facturers’ Association (JMA) and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) issued calls yesterday for the Office of the Prime Minister to make the responsible parties pay for the egregious circumstances that resulted in four outbreaks of the klebsiella and serratia bacteria at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and Cornwall Regional Hospital over a five-month period.

Since June, 42 premature babies have been infected from the outbreaks, resulting in the deaths of 12 babies at UHWI and seven at Cornwall Regional.

Calling for transparency in addressing the outbreak, PSOJ President William Mahfood told The Gleaner: “We need, as a country, to ask … why and who are responsible, and whoever those people are, they need to be held accountable.”

Added Mahfood: “The time has come for us to stop pushing things under the carpet and to ensure that accountability and proper governance is the order of the day for us going forward.”

In a statement, Metry Seaga, president of the JMA, said he was deeply concerned over the lack of transparency and accountability of the competent authorities’ handling of the situation.

“The JMA is concerned at the handling of the matter now being aired publicly of the deaths of 19 babies between June and November this year, while in the care of public hospitals, by two bacterial infections,” Seaga said.

Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson has denied knowledge of the outbreaks before the matter was made public on October 16 and has resisted calls to resign.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has indicated that she will not remove him.

Chief medical officer in the health ministry, Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse, has also indicated she has no intention of stepping down, although she has come under pressure for her late response to information sent to her on the outbreaks. It was revealed that she was informed of the outbreak on September 7.

Dr Cecil White, chief executive officer at UHWI, and Professor Trevor McCartney, medical chief of staff, both resigned after the hospital issued a statement on the scandal that has dominated conversation across the country in recent few weeks.

Described as “one-line letters of resignation that offered no reason”, McCartney’s resignation took effect on October 31, while White was initially to demit office on January 31 next year.

White and McCartney, along with Sterling Soares, chairman of the board at UHWI, have been subpoenaed by the Office of the Public Defender to answer to the charges.

Calls continue to come in from various quarters for more heads to roll at the health ministry, as well as the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

AUDIT FINDINGS KEPT SECRET

On the weekend, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw accused Ferguson of dishonesty, stating: “On the day the audit team arrived at Cornwall Regional Hospital, there was an infection outbreak in the neonatal unit … . Dr Ferguson has lied to the people of Jamaica that October 16 was the first they heard of it … . The question is, ‘What action they took?’ … No action was taken!”

Shaw, who was addressing a Jamaica Labour Party mass rally in May Pen, Clarendon, was making reference to a reportedly leaked copy of the Audit Report of the Regional Health Authorities done by the Ministry of Health, which the ministry has refused to make public.

Shaw said the health ministry received the audit report in August.

Seaga called for the prime minister “to insist on the immediate release of the full audit to the public and that the necessary persons are held accountable for this tragedy, where applicable”.

He continued: “We find it egregious that the minister has ordered an audit and has chosen not to release it to the public, especially in light of the circumstances coming to the fore now.

After outcry from both health-care workers and the general public in May, Ferguson had directed the four regional health authorities to conduct a comprehensive audit of their operations.

Following the release of a summary of the report on September 2, The Gleaner had requested a full copy under the Access to Information Act. However, a response from the health ministry yesterday stated that the request had been forwarded to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

‘STILL BEINGREVIEWED’

“We have been advised by the Attorney General’s Chambers that the matter is still being reviewed,” the ministry said.

“We note that the period of extension is to expire November 2, 2015 and apologise for the unavoidable delay being experienced. Should you wish to take the matter further, please avail yourself of the provisions of Part V of the Access to Information Act. Nonetheless, you will be updated as soon as we are in receipt of a response from the Attorney General’s Chambers.”

The ministry has said it chose not to release the full report because it did not want the public to have negative views of the implicated public-health facilities.

“We would not want to specifically give you the names of the hospitals. We don’t want to tell you which particular hospital has which shortage. It’s really not the best thing to do. I don’t think this is good to put those out in the public space at this time,” Dr Kevin Harvey, permanent secretary in the health ministry, said at the time.

Last night, Soares announced that Kevin Allen, senior director of finance at the hospital, has been appointed to act as chief executive officer, and that White had moved up his departure date as the board felt it was in the hospital’s best interest to appoint someone to act immediately.

In addition, Soares said the board has decided to appoint Dr Carl Bruce, consultant neurosurgeon, to act as senior director, clinical services, in the wake of McCartney’s resignation.

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US firm to develop biodiesel plant in Jamaica

Contributed
Emily Bockian Landsburg (second left), managing partner at Blue Hill Services, and Glen Garth (left), executive vice-president of Garth Solutions, speak with Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton (centre), JAMPRO President Diane Edwards and Claude Duncan, JAMPRO’s vice-president of investment promotion, at JAMPRO’s head office in St Andrew earlier this year.

One of the largest biodiesel producers in the United States (US), HERO BX, has been exploring the possibility of developing Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s first commercial-scale biodiesel plant on the island.

The firm’s representatives have been visiting Jamaica since JAMPRO’s Jamaica Investment Forum earlier this year, and have been meeting with various government and private-sector stakeholders with serious interest in confirming the project.

The plant would be a boost for Jamaica’s renewable-energy programme and would have a multi-industry impact, as biodiesel uses feedstock such as waste oils from the hospitality industry and plant feedstock from the agricultural industry.

The investment is expected to be a significant source of employment, as well as to enable the Government to benefit from the sale of biodiesel produced in Jamaica, which would operate as the hub of HERO BX’s Caribbean operations.

“This robust investment climate and investment in a variety of sectors in the economy is the result of work across government to improve the business environment, facilitate economic growth and create opportunities for job creation,” said Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton.

Hylton said Jamaica has been receiving more investment interest because of steps being taken by the Government to improve Jamaica’s economy and business environment.

PULL FACTORS

Jamaica-born Glen Garth, executive vice-president of US consulting firm Garth Solutions Inc, which is representing HERO BX, said Jamaica has received top billing for the development of the plant because of the country’s strategic location, among other factors.

“The location of Jamaica strategically in the Caribbean Basin; the access to a quality, educated labour force; the access to all of the benefits that are available due to commitments made by the Jamaican Government to encourage foreign direct investment are all factors. Those attributes are what first attracted our attention and have further strengthened our interest in sitting a biodiesel hub in Jamaica,” said Garth.

He added that the country’s strong national-energy policy and renewable energy subpolicy were seen as favourable and increased the company’s interest in Jamaica.

According HERO BX’s company profile, its “50-million-gallon-per-year-capacity plant produces fuel from multiple raw materials and has achieved the highest quality accreditation available”.

The profile continued: “HERO BX enjoys a reputation for quality and its commitment to the environment, community and safety. The company is investigating expanding into the Caribbean region, as the growing global renewable energy market is estimated to grow to US$614.92 billion by the end of 2015.”

JAMPRO President Diane Edwards said she was pleased that the country’s strides to promote its renewable-energy strategy have been bearing fruit.

She said following on the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce’s mandate, the agency has been campaigning for more investments in newer sectors to diversify Jamaica’s economy.

“We are seeing more interest in sectors such as energy and technology as the Government makes moves to improve the business atmosphere and the country’s readiness for investments. JAMPRO will monitor the progress of this and other projects closely as we try to bring more significant, sustainable investments to Jamaica,” she said.

OAS wants region to copy Jamaica's campaign-finance bill

Jermaine Barnaby
Luis Almagro Lemes, secretary general of the Organization of American States.

Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro Lemes, is welcoming the tabling of a campaign-finance bill in Jamaica’s Parliament and has expressed the hope that other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will adopt similar legislation.

Arguing that a campaign-finance regime is “essential and very necessary”, Almagro said that the absence of such a framework exposes governments to significant weaknesses, chief among them being the influence of dirty money.

Last Tuesday, the Government tabled a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to amend the Representation of the People Act, reforming Jamaica’s electoral campaign financing, out of the need to bolster the transparency and accountability of elected officials and to reduce corruption and improper influence in public life.

“It is a way to end any kind of corruption that may exist … . It is a way to end all weakness that political parties may have when they reach power,” Almagro said.

“In fact, it may end all nasty influences … in the future. When you pass a law like this, I expect that has to be according to maximum standards, and without double standards in order to keep the threat from democracy,” he added.

DIRTY-MONEY THREAT

The OAS secretary general, who is in Jamaica for the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the University of the West Indies, Mona, to promote governance education, said dirty money poses a threat to democracy.

“I think what Jamaica is doing is a very substantial step that … other Latin American and Caribbean countries will have to replicate in the near future,” the OAS secretary general said.

“Jamaica is a reference in the Caribbean, and so when we do things here and we work to strengthen democracy in Jamaica, it has a mirror effect on some other countries,” he added.

Under the proposed law, registered political parties and candidates for elections will have to report to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica donations and contributions of J$250,000 or more.

The bill also proposes that no political party can spend more than $630 million for all 63 constituencies and that no individual candidate can spend more than $10 million.

Additionally, it states that no individual contributor can contribute more than $1 million to an individual candidate and, based on a formula, no individual contributor can contribute more than $31.5 million to a particular party.

Almagro said the OAS believes it is important to keep track of the changes in political systems and to make sure that the political system finds solutions for the people.

He argued that without campaign-finance reform, there is the possibility that democracy can be captured by people of unsavoury character.

“It is the main problem that we have this day in the continent. Narco traffic and organised crime are very close to politics these days, and it (campaign-financing law) is a way to keep that money out of the political system, and that is very necessary to work every single issue that you have to work after that,” Almagro said.

Jamaica’s campaign-finance bill proposes making it illegal to accept campaign contributions from any person or entity whose existence is, or activities are, illegal under any law.

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Arnett and MoBay Clash in #MNF

Reigning champions Arnett Gardens and leaders Montego Bay United will clash in a repeat of last season’s final of the Red Stripe Premier League, at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.

Kick-off time is 8:40 tonight.

Arnett’s coach, Jerome Waite, says it will be a feisty encounter.

Waite says losing is not an option.

In yesterday’s results, Kevaughn Frater scored a hat trick in Harbour View’s 3-0 win over Portmore United.

Humble Lion edged Cavalier 1-0, UWI and Reno drew 2-2, Tivoli Gardens beat Rivoli 1-0, and Boys Town beat Waterhouse 1-0.

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Incubator transport guidelines clear – Soares

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Describing it as “quite alarming”, chairman of the board of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), Sterling Soares, said yesterday he did not know what to make of reports in the media showing a photograph of a flatbed truck supposedly transporting baby incubators and other related equipment in the direction of the hospital recently.

In a statement from the UHWI last night, Soares said that following the publication of the photograph in both national newspapers, he requested a report on when the last set of such equipment was delivered to the hospital.

The UHWI said Soares was advised that “a delivery was made on September 18, 2015, as a donation from the University of the West Indies, through PROMAC”.

The UHWI said: “The donation consisted of infant warmers and carriers, phototherapy lamps, along with a recovery bed and stretcher, and that these items were delivered by Medical Link. After being removed from their boxes, the equipment was assembled in the Annex on Ward 11, sanitised and commissioned and sent to the respective areas of use … . In light of the records of the hospital, [Soares] did not know what to make of the photographs supplied to both newspapers.”

Parliamentarian Daryl Vaz had supplied the photograph to the media, questioning the transportation method for incubators.

The Sunday Gleaner reported that “a truck was seen in Liguanea, St Andrew, last Friday heading in the direction of the UHWI with three incubators fully exposed to the elements”.

In the statement, Soares said the hospital’s guidelines, with respect to acquiring health-care equipment, are quite clear. He said they are ordered from overseas and are delivered from the wharf in either crates or boxes, assembled within the hospital by engineers, who demonstrate proper care to the hospital’s technicians, including how to clean and sanitise the units.

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CCJ Best Route to Appealing Buggery Law

Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding, says if the three Bills to entrench the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Jamaican constitution fail to pass in the upper house of parliament, the issue may be put to a referendum.

The Justice Minister made the comments on Sunday, while answering questions at a CCJ forum held at the Vineyard Town Methodist Church.

Minister Golding also noted that it’s only a matter of time before a challenge to the island’s buggery law is filed in the Constitutional Court.

He says that if the matter is taken beyond the Constitutional Court, it would make sense for a body such as the CCJ to make a final ruling.

Minister Golding says those who are resisting the CCJ but want to retain the buggery law better be careful what they wish for.

He says UK based Privy Council has already showed its hand where the right of persons to live in same sex unions is concerned.

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Flippa Moggela’s drug trial resumes Wednesday

Flippa Moggela’s drug trial resumes Wednesday

by K'Shema Francis

Flippa Moggela’s high profile drug trial is expected to resume this Wednesday.

Music News understands that the DEA is trying to establish that Flippa used a well-known international carrier to transfer cocaine from California to Camden in New Jersey and Jamaica.

Flippa’s trial began on October 27. He is facing charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, leading a narcotics organisation, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and money-laundering charges.

Several weeks ago, his brothers accepted plea deals and pleaded guilty to the charges.

Flippa Moggela has been in lockup since 2013.

Caribbean urged to seek greater representation in OAS

Jermaine Barnaby
Ambassador Professor Stephen Vasciannie (left) speaks with Luis Almagro Lemes, OAS secretary general.

Stephen Vasciannie, former Jamaican ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), says the time has come for Jamaica to attach greater importance to the role of the regional political body.

“In Jamaica, we tend not to pay sufficient regard to the OAS, which is an organisation which has important means and interest in CARICOM states,” Vasciannie, a professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, said yesterday.

Vasciannie was speaking with The Gleaner as OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Lemes visited the UWI, Mona, to sign a memorandum of understanding with the institution under a programme geared at advancing the quality and diversity of governance programmes offered by the university.

Almagro also delivered a lecture to about 200 law students on the role of the OAS in a changing hemisphere.

Arguing that there has been an under-representation of Caribbean people within the power structure of the OAS, Vasciannie said it was time that Jamaica and other countries lead the way in ensuring that change that is now taking place continues.

“We need to insist upon it,” the ambassador said.

STRENGTHENING BOND

Vasciannie said it was hoped that this would mark the start of even greater collaboration between the UWI and the OAS. He also expressed the desire for Jamaica to seek greater partnership with the OAS, especially in the areas of education, infrastructural efforts, democracy and working to deal with security matters, including cybercrimes.

“We need, as a country, to tap into areas in which the OAS has special competencies,” Vasciannie said.

The OAS’s operation is built on four main pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development.

“We know that the present secretary general is willing to enhance the interest of the organisation in the Caribbean, so we should take advantage of that,” Vasciannie said.

He noted that Jamaica has benefited significantly from membership in the OAS, pointing, for example, to the area of human rights.

“It has provided guidance to us on ways in which we should treat people, and we are grateful for that. Even though sometimes we find that their decisions are not to our liking, we have been grateful for the general guidance,” Vasciannie said.

In April, Vasciannie called upon the OAS to be more sensitive to the contribution that people of African descent have made to the Western Hemisphere.

He said that OAS member states should be prepared to ask why the organisation has so few symbols of achievement relating to persons of African descent, noting that there are people such as Martin Luther King Jr, Nanny of the Maroons, Bussa, Boukman, Dessalines, and Tacky who have helped to shape the history of the region.

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“JLP is on the UP” – Holness

JLP leader Andrew Holness has declared that the party is a united force as it prepares to enter full campaign mode ahead of the next general election.

Mr. Holness says the JLP is ready to save the country.

The JLP leader adopted a new persona last night, as he entered the stage to wild cheers from a massive crowd.

Using a popular slang from the streets, Mr. Holness told his supporters he was taking things ‘up’.

Andrew Holness, Opposition Leader addressing the JLP mass rally in Clarendon last night.

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Saints gets international recognition

Saints gets international recognition

by K'Shema Francis

American Vogue, the supreme authority on global fashion, has spoken.

Saint International CEO Deiwght Peters is Jamaica’s top model-maker of the moment. The Jamaican-based model agency and its owner are now front and center of the international fashion industry after American Vogue released an extensive interview on their website Vogue.com.

The headline blared ‘Meet The Man Behind Jamaica’s Model Wave’.

Saint International unleashed another new powerhouse Tami Williams with a semi-exclusive for Alexander Wang at New York Fashion Week. Tami was also named among Models.com’s Top New Faces of the season.