Ione Willet-Liburd latest victim from the continued in-fighting between health ministers Hamilton and Phipps
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS– The conflict between Federal Minister of Health, Hon. Eugene Hamilton and the Junior Minister with responsibility for Health, Sen. the Hon. Wendy Phipps continues to affect the moral within the ministry and the level of healthcare at the hospitals and health centers in St. Kitts.
Dr. Terrance Drew, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) caretaker for St. Christopher 8 on Wednesday cited the sending on leave until early next year the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mrs. Ione Liburd-Willet, who replaced Mr. Andrew Skerritt a few months ago.
Dr. Drew spoke Wednesday of the disturbing events including the referral to nurses as thieves by Ms Phipps, the illegal stem cell project at the J N France General Hospital and the retirement of Chief Medical Officer Dr Patrick Martin.
The deteriorating healthcare has resulted in the retirement and resignation of several nurses which has resulted in hospital wards manned by two or three nurses, lack of supplies including medication, toilet paper, pillows, bed sheets and late serving of meals..
“The healthcare situation is worsening. The conflict between the two ministers is having a tremendous impact on the delivery of healthcare and the health of the entire population,” said Dr. Terrance Drew, who told Freedom FM and Kyss FM listeners to the “Issues” programme that the country is suffering from the appointment of Eugene Hamilton as the Minister of Health as he comes from an insurance background and his incompetence.
He recalled the stem cell scandal where the Junior minister first denying the existence of the project with Hamilton confirming that the Cabinet had sanctioned the project with Phipps later admitting at the Prime Minister’s Press Conference that the project existed but it was “only a plasma infusion procedure.”
“It was an attempt by Phipps to fool the population by separating stem cell treatment and research from plasma infusion. She had no idea what she was talking about,” said Dr. Drew.
“It raises moral and ethical issues. Today no one can honestly tell us where the plasma came from. The stem cells may have come from local dead babies. Where did the plasma come from?,” asked Dr. Drew, adding: “The CMO Dr. Patrick Martin lost his job over this scandal when he opposed the use of the private ward of the JNF Hospital and the nursing staff to conduct the research and treatment without his knowledge and approval.
“Dr. Martin lost his job for standing up for his right to protect the health of the population and the integrity of the hospital to follow legal, ethical and moral standards. The stem cells could have been imported from dead babies in poor countries. We do not know because there was no Customs Declaration and the involvement of the CMO, who by law ought to be notified. The plasma came here and our local nurses and doctors were involved in delivering it and i am sure they were not aware what they were delivering and we do not know if any diseases were brought in with the plasma. No one knows because no checks were made by the CMO,” said Dr. Drew, who pointed out that when CMO Dr Patrick Martin carried out his constitutional duties “the ministers of health led by Eugene Hamilton sacked him from his position.”
He continued his criticism of the health ministers on the Zika virus issue pointing to the lack of a clear policy, the announcement by the Nevis Minister of Health Hon. Mark Brantley that Nevis was Zika free only to have the Federal Ministry of Health confirming two days later that there were confirmed cases not only by CARPHA but the new CMO.
He said the virus spread with hundreds of persons being affected as a result of lack of education, information and fogging equipment.
“A lot of the illnesses could have been prevented if the Ministry of Health was more aggressive in the control and prevention of the mo
Millions of dollars have been lost in loss of wages and salaries as a result of being home on sick leave and visitors not coming to St Kitts and Nevis as a result of the Advisory from the CDC in Atlanta informing potential visitors of the existence of the Zeka virus in St. Kitts and Nevis. These illnesses could have been prevented if the Ministry of Health was more aggressive in controlling the spread of the mosquito.
He said the accusation by Minister Phipps has demoralised the nurses at the hospitals and there have been significant resignations as well as retirement and forced retirement of nurses.
“She does not understand the tremendous damage she has done to the nursing profession. And now the ministry has begun to victimises nurses despite the shortage of nurses,” said Dr. Drew who referred to the forced resignation of Nurse Shirley Ferlance, the Assistant Matron and one of the most senior nurses in the profession.
Dr. Drew said the shortage of local nurses has resulted in the Government hiring nurses from the Philippines.