Cabinet blood transfusion
Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA makes healthy move
Jerome Kennedy is now the third health minister in the past three months, but he vows he’ll be able to handle the strain of what may be the government’s toughest portfolio.
“I’m worried to the extent that I know it’s a difficult job,” said the MHA for Carbonear-Harbour Grace, who was sworn into his new position at Government House last Wednesday afternoon Oct. 7.
“But I can tell you, at least so far in government, it hasn’t been as stressful as the job I did before. When you’re representing people whose lives are on the line in murder cases, that’s real stress. The stress I feel here is one of a duty to the public, trying to do the best I can.”
Before winning a seat in the legislature two years ago, Kennedy was a renowned criminal defence lawyer.
Health will be his third cab- inet post, having served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General until he was appointed Minister of Finance in a cabinet shuffle less than a year ago.
He said he wants to get “back to the basics” in the health department. He told reporters he planned to fly to St. Anthony within hours to visit hospitals on the Northern Peninsula.
That region has been the epicentre of health-care unrest in recent weeks.
Kennedy’s predecessor, Paul Oram, announced plans to slash services in Flower’s Cove, before partially reversing the cuts as a provincial byelection loomed.
And last week, surgeons in St. Anthony issued a letter warning of “ preventable deaths, widespread public outrage and a big political mess” if action isn’t taken to address surgical needs.
Kennedy noted that he has a wealth of information to digest.
“I’ve got lots of material to read over the next few days,” he told reporters.
That is a contrast to his predecessor. Oram who quit politics last week, blaming health woes and media scrutiny, had a gaffe-prone three months in health.
He insisted that he was only briefed orally when he took over the $ 2.6-billion department, thwarting media requests to view his briefing notes. However, weeks earlier, Oram said the opposite, telling a local newspaper he had “24 inches” of briefing notes and books on his desk waiting for him.
He also said he was “hands off” from his business interests after becoming an MHA in 2003. Reporters uncovered information on the public record that suggested otherwise.
In other cabinet changes unveiled Wednesday, Tom Marshall ping-ponged back into finance from justice for the second time in the past three years.
And Placentia-St. Mary’s MHA Felix Collins joined cabinet as the new justice minister.
Premier Danny Williams said he is not concerned about instability in his cabinet; two ministers have now quit in the past two weeks.
Williams said there was an “urgency” to fill the vacancy in health, but he left transportation open for now.
The premier insisted he has a “great backbench” of talent, but said he is waiting to fill that position until after the results of two pending byelections.
As for health, it is a “tough portfolio,” the premier acknowledged.
“My biggest frustration I think from a health perspective is 99.9 per cent of the stories are good stories, and we only hear the bad ones,” Williams told reporters.
“It’s unfortunate that the kind of great, good news stories that I get, that my cabinet colleagues get, from people who’ve had wonderful experiences in the healthcare system never get out. So we have to deal with the negativity, and sometimes that can wear people down.”