Pub­lic health of­fi­cers to re­store com­mu­nity vis­i­bil­ity

Daily Observer (Jamaica) - - LETTERS -

Dear Edi­tor,

I want to laud Lenox Wal­lace, chief pub­lic health in­spec­tor of St James, and his ded­i­cated team for their firm and de­ci­sive act in clos­ing down the two food han­dling en­ti­ties in the par­ish for bla­tant breaches of the Pub­lic Health Act.

As an ex-pub­lic health in­spec­tor, I am of­ten be­wil­dered to see the wan­ton in­fringe­ment of the pub­lic health reg­u­la­tions to the detri­ment of the health and well-be­ing of the con­sum­ing pub­lic.

I am fully aware of the dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances un­der which the of­fi­cers op­er­ate in mod­ern times, given the low salary and gen­eral work­ing con­di­tions, re­sult­ing in gross un­der­staffing with cor­re­spond­ing de­mo­ti­va­tion, the con­stant haem­or­rhag­ing of the few sacri­fi­cial lambs left to bat­tle the wa­ters. But I wish to en­cour­age the of­fi­cers to hold strain and be firmly com­mit­ted to the no­ble task as the guardians of the na­tion’s health.

I there­fore wish to out­line the fol­low­ing strate­gies which will go a far way in syn­er­gis­ing the ef­forts of the health depart­ment.

Pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion must pro­vide the cit­i­zenry with the knowl­edge to take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion in fa­cil­i­tat­ing pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion in iden­ti­fy­ing, pre­vent­ing, and abat­ing pub­lic nui­sances. This be­gins with ar­tic­u­lat­ing the vast spec­trum of the pow­ers of the Pub­lic Health Act in iden­ti­fy­ing, pre­vent­ing and abat­ing pub­lic nui­sances that be­comes the re­spon­si­bil­ity of each in­di­vid­ual. Ac­cord­ingly, the Pub­lic Health Act de­fines a nui­sance as “any act un­war­ranted by law which act or omis­sion af­fects or is likely to af­fect prej­u­di­cially the pub­lic health”. It also deems any such breach by in­di­vid­u­als, or­gan­i­sa­tions pri­vate or pub­lic guilty of any such breach as hav­ing com­mit­ted a crime en­force­able by the courts by the im­po­si­tion of a fine and/or a pe­riod of im­pris­on­ment. There­fore, all cit­i­zens must be en­cour­aged to ex­er­cise their so­cial right to re­port any pub­lic health in­fringe­ment to the health depart­ment with­out any ap­pre­hen­sion.

The pub­lic health of­fi­cers must rise from their ob­scu­rity and flaunt their vis­i­bil­ity in the com­mu­nity, as was the prac­tice in my day. They must be seen car­ry­ing out rou­tine in­spec­tions of food-han­dling es­tab­lish­ments, such as restau­rants, bars, ice cream par­lours, su­per­mar­kets, ed­u­ca­tional in­struc­tions, pub­lic mar­kets, com­mu­nity cen­tres, pub­lic water sup­ply fa­cil­i­ties, and all the new bot­tled water sup­pli­ers, etc.

They must be vig­i­lant in in­spect­ing bar­ber­shops, sa­lons, health spas, ho­tels and mo­tels, as well as the itin­er­ant road­side food ven­dors to en­sure that all op­er­a­tors have a valid food han­dler’s per­mit, ac­cess to potable water sup­ply, san­i­tary con­ve­niences, sani­ti­sa­tion to pre­vent food poi­son­ing and the trans­mis­sion of com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases from client to client and op­er­a­tor to client.

En­sure that all pub­lic abat­toirs and fish-vend­ing fa­cil­i­ties are com­pli­ant and dis­cour­age the pub­lic from pur­chas­ing un­cer­ti­fied meat and fish.

Re­store the rou­tine in­spec­tion of aban­doned premises with over­grown veg­e­ta­tion and di­lap­i­dated build­ings serv­ing as har­bourage for dis­ease vec­tors such as rats, flies, mosquitoes, and in­voke the law which makes pro­vi­sions for each par­ish coun­cil to en­ter any such premises as of­ten as needs be to have the premises bushed and lodge a caveat against any such premises un­til the in­debt­ed­ness is made good.

To achieve the above, the pub­lic health as­so­ci­a­tion which rep­re­sents pub­lic health of­fi­cers must make an ex­i­gent de­mand on the Govern­ment to pro­vide a pub­lic marked ve­hi­cle to each par­ish iden­ti­fy­ing and pro­mot­ing the pres­ence of a team of health of­fi­cers vis­i­ble to the pub­lic. It’s also a bril­liant idea to pro­vide them with vests as an ad­di­tional means of pub­lic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Al­ter­nately, each in­spec­tor could be provided with re­mov­able car stick­ers for pub­lic iden­tity. This will en­gen­der pub­lic con­fi­dence and sup­port for the par­tially in­vis­i­ble but ar­dently com­mit­ted pub­lic health of­fi­cers who must be fully in­te­grated into the com­mu­nity they serve.

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