Thu | Dec 12, 2019

Opposition not pleased with Gov’t’s dengue war efforts

Published:Friday | October 11, 2019 | 12:11 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Opposition Spokesman on Health Dr Morais Guy has labelled as inadequate Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton’s announcement of increased mitigation efforts and funding to tackle dengue fever across the island.

Approximately $350 million has been allocated to tackle factors that lead to dengue up to December.

During a sitting of the House of Representatives at Gordon House on Tuesday, Tufton revealed that between January 1 and September 30, some 5,909 suspected, probable, and confirmed cases of dengue were recorded across the island. There were 135 suspected and confirmed dengue-related deaths over the same period.

Forty-seven cases of death were reported in 2018 while 88 persons have died so far in 2019. Ten of the deaths occurred last month.

“Since January 2019, the ministry has intensified its dengue prevention and control activities, with further intensification in July and again in September. Response activities involved strengthening surveillance case management and vector-control management. The vector-control management strategy includes strengthening human resource capacity and supporting efforts to decrease the Aedes Aegypti mosquito islandwide,” Tufton said.

“The ministry’s public relations unit implemented a robust public education campaign, and additional activities continued and intensified in September 2019, with greater emphasis on early warning signs for severe dengue. Distribution of updated material and messages promoting risk communication and educating the public through flyers, brochures, and social media, is ongoing. There is continued resensitisation of clinical staff both public and private physicians,” he added.

Tufton said that more than 20 health centres and clinics islandwide continue to operate under extended work hours, until 10 p.m., to accommodate persons and free up space in emergency units at public hospitals. He said that collaboration is ongoing with other state entities and ministries to tackle the outbreak.

“The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) continues to provide overall support to the ministry’s dengue response. The National Health Fund is providing the additional financing for the ministry’s enhanced vector programme. The funds ($189.5 million) are to be allocated for temporary vector control worker employment, source reduction, and bulky waste removal ($120 million), public education campaigns ($30 million), and vector control intervention ($10 million),” the minister said.

However, Guy chided the Government for not doing enough to stem dengue deaths. He pointed to the 47 deaths last year and compared it to the 88 recorded up to September 30 this year, which he described as an almost 100 per cent increase.

“You indicated that in July and September, there was enhanced coordinated response, but yet we saw 10 deaths in September 2019. You have made budgetary provisions to take us until December, but at the end of the day, whatever is being done by the ministry is inadequate to stem the outbreak of dengue in the country,” Guy purported.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com