Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said “there is going to have a problem with dengue” because president of the Public Services Association (PSA), Watson Duke, shut down the Insect Vector building at Cunupia on Wednesday.
On Monday, at a news conference at the Ministry of Health’s Port of Spain headquarters, Khan said there has been a “36 per cent increase in dengue infections for 2014”.
Monday was also World Health Day (WHO) with the theme Vector-Borne Diseases Small Bite: Big Threat.
In a telephone interview, Khan said: “There is going to be a problem with dengue. It is going to get worse because Duke went and shut down the Insect Vector building in Cunupia. From what I heard, the PSA went and shut it down. It was only open about six months.”
Khan added: “They told the staff to sign and go on. Cariri has passed this building as good. Before the Insect Vector Control was at St Joseph. We have put in shuttles and everything is in the new building. They are saying the new building is hazardous to health.”
Asked about an interim plan, Khan said: “I am going to deploy all insect vector officers to the 14 corporations and put the administrative staff in Port of Spain. They will have some buses to carry them down to Sackville Street, so, they will be there from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
Asked about the “36 per cent increase” in dengue cases, Khan said: “We saw the data and it might be more now. There will be a rise in dengue. I do hope the work will go on.”
Asked about his move, Duke said while the building was new, it housed dangerous chemicals.
In a telephone interview, Duke said: “I shut it down. If there are dangerous chemicals on the compound, it renders the new building “null and void. We have about four workers getting ill due to respiratory problems.
“About 19 workers died from cancer or cancer related illness over the last five years. One of the more dangerous chemicals is malakite, that has been banned in first world countries. The chemical is placed at the entrance and exit to the building.
“Before, the workers were in St Joseph and the chemicals were miles away from the office. How come they have now chosen to put them on the building? The building is contaminated with the scent. The building has no fire certificate and no muster point.
“Workers have been advised to ‘Come, sign and go’. They have to get an industrial medical exam and check their reproductive and urinary system. Several people are taking antibiotics.”
Duke added: “Khan should be held responsible for the health, safety and well being of the workers and the nation. If the workers are complaining, Khan should be wise enough to sort it out because he had the resources.”