Leptospirosis crisis shows long term negligence by Barbados Government

In face of a record outbreak Health Minister Inniss admits Ministry inaction, negligence

“The Government of Barbados gave notice this morning that it will be prosecuting owners of Bridgetown businesses, home owners and individuals who persisted in flouting the Health Services Act.

Health Minister Donville Inniss laid down the gauntlet at a Press Conference at his Culloden Road office to deal with a record number of leptospirosis cases which had resulted in three deaths this year.

Inniss fingered “the big ups” whom he said owed the ministry money for cleaning up their unkempt properties and could afford to pay, but wouldn’t.

He said while Government should not have to use “heavy-handed” methods to get Barbadians to keep their surroundings clean and tidy, he had asked his officers to step up surveillance and start lodging cases in the law courts.”

… from the Barbados Today article Foot Down

by Nevermind Kurt

 Listening to Minister Inniss one would have to think that he and his staff just heard about the annual statistics showing a massive increase in leptospirosis cases during the past year. Indeed, the “Woaloss, what a surprise! We gots to do something about this!” feeling that ran through the press conference was surreal.

Why doesn’t the government already monitor this deadly disease on a weekly basis? Shouldn’t the trend have been noticed six months ago? Shouldn’t there already have been prosecutions, inspections and forced clean-ups happening for the last three years?

The latest press conference by Donville Inniss has all the usual hallmarks of the laissez-faire system of non-leadership that characterizes both DLP and BLP governments.

Think about past leptospirosis outbreaks and you’ll see that the story always follows this pattern:

  1. The long-term failure of government to counter leptospirosis is once again highlighted through the release of an annual statistical report, or a death.
  2. The newspaper stories note that many publicly-owned lands and derelict buildings contribute to the problem by offering homes for rats and other lepto carriers.
  3. Government Ministers call a press conference where they vow to “lay down the law” against businesses and land owners who fail to keep their properties clean, clear and free of carrier habitats. Government pledges to do its part about public properties. Government promises new and revised laws where current legislation is inadequate.
  4. After a month or two of action, the outbreak dies down. Monies that were pledged to the long-term control vanish from the budgets because the problem has gone away. With the crisis past, the preventative measures fall off the priority chart as some other flavour of the day takes over.
  5. A steady and slow increase begins again, until it reaches the tipping point when leptospirosis cases go exponential. When this happens, go back to Step 1 and start again.

This has been the pattern of response to leptospirosis outbreaks for the last 20 years.

Why must every new leptospirosis outbreak be a surprise? Why are Barbados governments incapable of implementing and carrying through with long-term plans about issues that are foundational to the health and safety of citizens?

The same thing happens with mass vehicle deaths and drinking and driving. The government responds with plans, promises of breathalyzer legislation, increased enforcement and the start of action… but six months later its all back to the way it was.

The Health Minister’s latest press conference was nothing more or less than an admission of gross neglect about leptospirosis since the last outbreak.

Remember this: three months from now nothing will have changed, and a year from now when the 2012 leptospirosis statistics are released we’ll see the same speech by the next Health Minister.

Not much changes ’round this place.

Further Reading

Barbados Advocate: Health warning

The Nation: Lepto Leap



Filed under Barbados, Health

7 responses to “Leptospirosis crisis shows long term negligence by Barbados Government

  1. Pingback: Barbados: leptospirosis outbreak · Global Voices

  2. Angela Ifill

    I think we have a terrible disconnect between the people who join a political party and they ability to run a ministry or anything.Having join a political party that wins a government all of a sudden someone is capable of running a Ministry? We form a political party find some losers to join it and by a fluke after many false promises and populace apathy we win the Government.Now the country has a bunch of persons who know nothing about Ministerial Government being craftsmen of our fate.I contend we need to attract some seriously bright people into Politics.
    I look at the Sanitation Service Authority this way,it is a place where people who have been to prison and whose chances of finding work are very low and with a letter in hand from a Minister they are recruited by the SSA.The bottom of barrel is scraped up and drop into the SSA at all levels.Then we wonder why the Island has such a garbage problem.Another intriguing thought of mine is that we Barbadians pride our selves in how clean our houses are at any given time of the day,month or year; yet our surroundings that is our Island is so filthy.So much so the rat population is huge and leptospirosis is a problem on the Island.We need to get the word out so that at all levels people are aware of the five M’s: men, machines, methods, materials, and money.

  3. Caswell Franklyn

    The writer of this post seems to know something about the Prime Minister’s plan. The last paragraph suggested that there would be a different Minister of Health in 2012.

    That said, the problem with the poor level of enforcement when it comes to our health laws rest solely on the shoulders of politicians. The Environmental Health Officers do their jobs by reporting the offenders, but the politicians prevent prosecutions. So please don’t criticise the public officers: deal with the politicians.

  4. Newbie

    Here we go again, another Government office not doing its job, always playing CATCH-UP when the spotlight throws a glare on them.
    If they enforced the little legislation that we do have on everyone that transgresses and not just the poor people we would all be better off. There are overgrown lots owned by banks due to whatever reason. No one seems to insist on the banks cleaning up their lots. These lots when left unattended create not only a HEALTH HAZARD with diseases but also a risk to PUBLIC SAFETY with plenty of cover for someone to hide in.
    I doubt if you would find any unattended or hazardous lots near any of the MINISTERS homes.
    @ Caswell Franklyn

    Its for the public officers whose work is being ignored, belittled or ridiculed to deal with the politicians who may be committing those actions or refuse to play the game and speak out There is a cancer running through Government departments in Barbados and eventually the body is going to die if not treated very soon.


  5. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    Barbados rat population is astronomical. But still you were the experts say its undercontrol. Has anyone ask what the is Ministry of Health plan of action over the last 10 years to rid or bring to acceptable levels the sprialling out of control rat problem. Because I know they have been trying very hard to fight it but when they seek to deal with defunct businesses and private dwellings there efforts are fustrated when the friends of politicians are called in and here …LEAVE THE RILEY’S ALONE OR GAVE THEM A PERIOD TO CLEAN UP THEIR MESS.

  6. 69

    Would like remind the public
    that Public Health is the overall responsibility of the public.
    That’s why it’s called Public Health and not Gov’t. Dept. Health, you see?

    We all sit on our lazy asses waiting for GOVERNMENT to solve the public problems.
    After all, we are babies to be looked after!
    We don’t have to help, by each of us doing our little bit to help Rodent Control, oh no!
    And so the socialist mindest in Barbados is!
    GOVERNMENT is there to solve our every little problem, not me the individual!

    GOVERNMENT must come and clean out the drain behind my house that breeds mosquitoes, although I really could get out there and do something about it,
    but I’m simply too dependent, not INdependent, and lazy too.
    I prefer to pretend that I can afford to believe politician platform talk,
    because I’m really that simple-minded, poor fool that I am.

    And so I surrender all MY social responsibilities (Zero! in my little head).
    I’m such a prostitute for the vote the politician wants.
    I have a strange dependent mindset, and thus I get the shitty Government I so richly deserve!

    I really should go get some rat poison and put some out there in my untidy back yard
    but what the hell, the Inspector coming around in a week’s time
    -I’ll complain to him instead and consider that I’ve done my bit.

    All is well, doan worry bout a thing.
    Be happy, even as my dependent country collapse around me, I cool man!

  7. Rib Bone & Willy

    What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?
    “Rat on a Stick” gonna be one of the new Bajan cuisine specialities.
    It goin’ to be introducted at the “Food, Fun & Rum Fest” we gonna be holdin’ when we catch enough of the fat bastards to whup dem up.
    We gonna have fried, fricasse, toasted, battered, buttered and done “to order.” If you ain’t had rat, you ain’t had nuffin’
    It go good with breadfruit, cheese, mac, fish–whatever!
    We just hopin’ da politicians don’t start taxing this new enterprise before we get it goin’.
    Willy B & Rib Bone
    Rat Catchers and Cooks Extraordinaire