No report of any person affected by chemical exposure recorded in 2012; Health Minister Liburd says ministry takes BHS matter seriously

File Photo of Minister of Health, Hon. Marcella Liburd

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 22ND (CUOPM) – There has been no reports of any person affected by chemical exposure in 2012, Minister of Health, Hon. Marcella Liburd disclosed on Wednesday.

In a statement in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly, Minister Liburd said her ministry always informs the country whenever there is a serious matter of public health concern.

“Chemical exposure of a group of persons is a very serious health matter. Doctors and nurses treating persons for chemical exposure are required by law to notify the Chief Medical Officer,” said Minister Liburd, who pointed out that the Chief Medical Officer has received no notification of persons affected by chemical exposure in 2012.

“The last documented chemical exposure associated with a school lab occurred in the early 1990s when there was an incident at the Cayon High School. Affected students were appropriately treated,” said Ms. Liburd.

“Coincidentally, on Monday of this week a male student from the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College presented to Accident and Emergency with chemical inhalation at around 1:15 pm. He was observed and discharged at around 3 pm without complication,” said Minister Liburd.

According to Ms. Liburd, following recent media reports of Basseterre High School students being hospitalized because of health issues related to the lab situation, as Minister of Health, she asked the Chief Medical Officer to investigate the matter and provide information to be passed on to the public.

“On Tuesday 20th November, the Chief Medical Officer reported that a search of hospital records dating back to February 2012 found no cases of hospitalization associated with the BHS lab matter and no unusual number or increase in the number of persons associated with the Basseterre High School presenting at Accident and Emergency with any issue related to the labs,” she told parliamentarians and the Nation.

She also disclosed that the chief Medical Officer further reported that the search continues using cross-referencing methodologies in an attempt to identify cases that may have been missed during the first search.

The Health Minister gave the public the assurance, that if there were or are cases of students, teachers or any other person presenting to the Emergency Room or warded as a result of chemical exposure, the country will be informed.

“I therefore advise the general public that in our respectful opinion there is no need for panic. Further assessments of the environment are being planned. In fact a technical team from Trinidad and Tobago is on the ground at the moment to investigate the matter. I expect the appropriate corrective measures will be taken. They will be guided by science and evidence. And the public will be updated accordingly,” said Minister Liburd.

She further stated that in her capacity as Minister of Health she takes the matter related to the Basseterre High School Labs seriously.

“The Ministry of Health and indeed the entire Government take this matter seriously and our primary concern is the health of the students, teachers and support staff,” said Minister Liburd.

She pointed out that in February 2012, the Environmental Health Department received a request from the BHS principal to investigate what appeared to be a health hazard associated with the science labs.

“Our Environmental Health Officers responded immediately and carried out a survey and investigations into the labs. Our Environmental Health Officers registered concerns about unlabelled and obsolete chemicals which could have adverse health effects if unstable or handled improperly, said Minister Martin.

She disclosed that recommendations were given to the principal of the Basseterre High School. Our Environmental Health Officers also assisted the school at their request with removing books and other materials from the labs to ensure that the students could complete their S.B.A’s,” said added.

Minister Liburd commended Mr. Alex Riley and the other officers from the Environmental Health Department for their assistance and co-operation in this regard.

In March 2012, the Ministry of Education commissioned Dr. Milton Whittaker, PhD, to conduct an assessment. His report contained findings which corroborated the concerns raised by the Environmental Health Department. Dr. Whittaker made specific recommendations to the Ministry of Education.

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