KINGSTON –– Former health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson says he feels hurt and demonized by much of the public commentary about the way he managed the health portfolio and remains convinced he was undermined in a major conspiracy.
“My greatest pain has to do with how I have been demonized, for one who has done, in four years, many things that those before me [never did],” Ferguson told journalists outside of Parliament yesterday.
Last Friday, the East St Thomas Member of Parliament was reassigned from the Ministry of Health by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
The prime minister said she made the decision to move Ferguson from health after careful consideration and indicated that despite significant work done under his watch, the deaths of 19 premature babies in two public hospitals during bacterial outbreaks had served to overshadow his accomplishments.
Expressing regret at the loss of lives, Ferguson yesterday said he would never undervalue the lives of the neonates who were affected by the bacteria.
He also insisted that as he was aware of the bacterial outbreak, he did all he could to cauterize the situation, and suggested that he was set up.
“That is why we are convinced about this conspiracy theory, because it cannot be that the first person you blame for something is the minister. What happens to the governance structure in terms of other persons?” he asked.
Yesterday, most members of the parliamentary opposition abandoned legislative duties after House Speaker Michael Peart ruled that a censure motion brought by West Portland MP Daryl Vaz would not be debated as it had become redundant, with Ferguson no longer in charge of the health portfolio.
Ferguson, meanwhile, told The Gleaner that while many of the public expressions had been vitriolic, he had managed to stay afloat as a result of his strength of character and a supportive family.
“Yes, it is something that hangs overhead. It is painful when you hear the lies,” Ferguson said, pointing, for example, to North-East Manchester MP Audley Shaw and Vaz as being architects of spreading untruths and innuendoes.
In the case of Shaw, Ferguson cited his false declaration about being in possession of an unreleased health audit, which supposedly contained certain findings about an infection in the neonatal ward at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
Shaw, who called Ferguson’s credibility into question and said the minister was lying through his teeth, has since apologized for providing misleading information.
Yesterday, several of Ferguson’s supporters journeyed to Kingston in solidarity with the East St Thomas MP, declaring he would be voted in for a sixth term when the next general election is called.
“We are standing firm with him –– solid as a rock,” party worker Nadine Davis said.
She said Ferguson’s would be one of the first seats to be declared, arguing that his political team had been working hard and that he had been a good MP.
Ferguson is being challenged for the seat by the Jamaica Labour Party’s Delano Seiveright.
“Seiveright is no threat at all to Fenton. He is just a chatty-boo. A lot is being said, but because Doctor is a Christian and a good man, he will not say anything; but we are here to defend him.”
First elected in 1993, when he beat Pearnel Charles and ended the JLP’s 45-year dominance in the constituency, in 2011, Ferguson got home by 473 votes, nearly half the 938 margin he had in 2007.