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Front Pages 16 Jan, 2023 Follow News


Minister for Health and Wellness, Sabrina Turner has responded to criticism by the opposition Progressives party about the state of the Long Term Residential Mental Health Project (LTMHF).

The project and general care of persons with mental challenges have been thrown into the spotlight with the abrupt resignation of the chair of the Mental Health Commission Dr Marc Lockhart.

According to a statement from Min. Turner, the circumstances that led to Dr Lockhart’s resignation prompted her to undertake a review of the situation, which revealed a breakdown in the communication flow to her.

“On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank Dr Lockhart for his decades of tireless service and contribution to advancing the cause of mental health in our community,” Min. Turner stated.

In a press release in which he commented on the resignation of Dr Lockhart and the state of the LTMHF, Progressives leader Roy McTaggart stated: “The news that Dr Marc Lockhart has resigned from the Mental Health Commission after becoming frustrated by the lack of communication from the Health Ministry should concern everyone living on these Islands.  His frustration is over the plodding pace the Government is taking to address what has been called Cayman’s mental health crisis.  In particular, the unnecessary delay in opening the needed Mental Health Facility, a lack of communication and clear plans from the Health Ministry.”

But Health and Wellness minister Turner has rejected the Opposition’s criticisms.

“Contrary to some suggestions, the construction of the LTMHF is not yet complete and is not anticipated to be so until sometime in March. Construction of the LTMHF is managed by Public Works Department (PWD) and has experienced multiple delays over the past two years. PWD has explained that the main reason for the repeated delays was initially COVID-19 and subsequently supply chain issues. The LTMHF will also invariably require a phased opening, which may in itself take as much as a year to fully implement.”

Min. Turner who took over the ministry following the 2021 election said she inherited many challenges left by the previous Progressives government including the LTMHF, and she accused the Opposition of providing misleading information on the state of the project.

“When I took office, the LTMHF was under basic construction and was nowhere near being close to completion as the Opposition suggest. In fact, the project had already suffered a number of delays, some of which were due to COVID-19. As has been borne out, the buildings were still far from completion. As such, the comments from the Opposition suggesting that it was nearly complete is blatantly untrue, and can only be described as an attempt to deliberately mislead the public.”

Min. Turner also listed several other issues that she has inherited and has been working to resolve. “I have had to prioritise what can only be described as the re-establishment of the Ministry of Health. I joined a team with no confirmed Chief Officer, no Deputy Chief Officer, and only two policy advisors dedicated to health, and this lean team had worked almost exclusively on the national management of COVID-19 since early 2020. For years, the Health Ministry has been severely understaffed due to budget cuts, hiring freezes and other constraints which negatively impacted its internal capacity. Today, we have a confirmed Chief Officer, one Deputy Chief Officer, a full-time Chief Medical Officer, one epidemiologist and three policy advisors to help the Ministry of Health deliver results at pace.” Minister Turner concluded.

Specific to the LTMHF, the Health and Wellness minister added: “In spite of significant challenges, my commitment to this project is steadfast and I will continue to work with my Ministry team to address the gaps and chasms which I inherited while advocating for the strengthening of the Ministerial team and building capacity.”

Minister Turner concluded by addressing the broader issue of staffing saying: “While as Minister I do not and cannot have any direct responsibility nor involvement in matters relating to staffing or recruitment, I have actively encouraged and wholeheartedly supported recent efforts to rebuild the Ministry team. We must ensure the Ministry of Health is staffed and operated with adequate capacity and capable, qualified professionals who are able and willing to serve the needs of the community, and in tandem, the team at the Ministry of Health create and enshrine a culture which focuses on a more proactive approach to health and wellness.”

Shortly after the 2021 election the former health minister with the Progressives, Dwayne Seymour, crossed the floor and is now part of the PACT coalition with Min. Turner but is based in a different ministry.

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