Cab­i­net blood trans­fu­sion

Carbonear-Har­bour Grace MHA makes healthy move

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROB ANTLE

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.”

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