The island’s chief medical officer is standing behind his decision to give Senator Lisa Cummins the green light to attend work last week.
And even though Cummins’ appearance in Senate not only sparked a walkout of some of her colleagues, but was widely criticized by Barbadians, Dr Kenneth George maintains it was the best approach.
Last Wednesday, Cummins, the new Minister of Tourism and International Transport, was allowed by President of the Sir Richard Cheltenham, to enter the Upper Chamber after he read a letter signed by Dr George, the Acting Chief Medical Officer, giving her the all-clear to return to her duties.
It came just six days after Cummins was present at a welcoming party for 95 Ghanaian nurses at the Grantley Adams International Airport. Two days later nine of the nurses tested positive for COVID-19. The CMO then advised officials including Cummins and Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic to stay away from work out of an abundance of caution.
Speaking today during a press conference at the Ministry of Health’s Culloden Road headquarters, Dr George denied that any special treatment was meted out to Cummins.
“Yes I believe what I did was the scientific approach. Obviously things were said in other places regarding the decision I had made and we in this ministry have assured the public that we use a steady hand when we make decisions and we agreed that the risk to start with was extremely low and we used the science at the time and I stand by my decision to issue the letter,” Dr George said.
Speaking in the Chamber, Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn accused the CMO of being influenced in his decision to clear Cummins and suggested he needed to “retire or resign”.
But today, Dr George said, “As I have said, we will continue to make sure that the interest of the public is paramount and the protection of the public is paramount. I’m confident that we have a very competent team. Barbados’ ability to navigate this process is because I think we have a competent team that advises the senior officers within the Ministry of Health and we don’t take any decisions we take very lightly.”
Dr George insisted that the letter which he wrote in respect of Cummins’ being cleared to return to the Senate was not a favour.
He said as recently as today, he wrote and signed similar letters which cleared the way for persons to return to work.
“I have written letters today letting persons know that they can safely go back just as I did with her. I did three letters today because based on the information and the science I have, I made a determination that these people are not infectious and let’s leave it at that. The public is not at risk…” Dr George said.
Last Friday, Cummins subsequently issued an apology for her actions, saying she had made a bad decision in going to the Senate.
“…I’ve always prided myself on the ability to make proper decisions, measured choices, sensible choices that take into account not just myself but those around me and I wish that on this occasion I could have made a different decision. If I had to do it all over again I certainly would,” she said in a video recorded apology.