Chief Medical Officer Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache has rejected the accusation by the public and at least one opposition parliamentarian that her ministry dropped the ball on the dengue fever outbreak.
“On Saturday, a communication consultant said to me, you know, Vincentians – and I shared it with our health promotion team yesterday — often times it seems as if Vincentians have to be — I might get licks for this, but anyhow, my back is broad — clobbered over the head before they pay attention,” Keizer-Beache told a Ministry of Health press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday.
“If you check all of our social media, all of our press releases, we have been in the field for months, talking about dengue. We even developed a plan because we are looking at hurricanes, COVID, dengue,” Keizer-Beache said when asked how her ministry would respond to the allegation that it had been asleep during the outbreak.
“We have been out there giving messages, we have the SVG Health page on Facebook. I recommend, I suggest that every Vincentian become very familiar with that page. There is a lot of information there.
“It is unfortunate that Vincentians think that we dropped the ball, however, we will continue to work because that’s what we do in the Ministry of Health. We understand our role but we understand that we can’t do it without the public and we will continue to try to engage the public so that we can all have a healthier life,” Keizer-Beache said.
On Aug. 27, the Ministry of Health warned of an “above normal’ increase in dengue cases” and said it was “taking all necessary steps to prevent a severe outbreak of dengue fever” in SVG.
The ministry said that as of July 25, SVG had recorded 48 laboratory confirmed cases of dengue with the number increasing to 74 by Aug. 25.
“This increase is not typical for this period and Vincentians are urged to take the requisite precautions to prevent further spread of the illness,” the ministry had said.
As of Monday, the country had recorded 374 laboratory confirmed cases of dengue.
Tuesday’s press conference was the first by the ministry in months, even as the country is still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, although there is currently no active case in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Minister of Health Senator Luke Browne did not attend Tuesday’s press conference, at which health officials announced that two dengue deaths had been confirmed.
On Monday, the ministry said that there had been four suspected dengue deaths.
On Wednesday, Browne said in a statement that he was at a school at the time of the media briefing, which was attended by senior members of his technical staff.
The minister said on his “politician” Facebook page that he was at Dorsetshire Hill Government School, talking to students about dengue.
The school is located in East Kingstown, the constituency that the minister is hoping to win in the next general elections — his third attempt to do so.
Last week Thursday, MP for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, opposition shadow minister of health, used the New Democratic Party’s virtual campaign event to warn the country “of a growing health threat with dengue fever”.
“You notice that they fall asleep on the job again,” he said, adding,
“… the man who in charge ah health is sleeping again”.
“Take care of yourself; destroy the facilities that allow mosquitoes to breed in your place. You cannot rely on Sleepy to deal with your health in this country. I’m telling you. You have to deal with it for yourself.”