Archive for June 26th, 2014

First suspect chikungunya case emerges in Cayman

| 26/06/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Public health officials sent a blood sample Wednesday to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad to test it for chikungunya after a patient who had travelled to countries where there is an outbreak of the virus went to the the local hospital with symptoms consistent with it. Medical Officer of Health, Dr Kiran Kumar said, “The CARPHA has been notified and we are advised that they will prioritise this case and will revert with the results as a matter of urgency. "While officials wait for the results, the MRCU said it is taking additional control measures in the area where the patient lives. The district where the patient is a resident has now been confirmed as George Town.

“The government has been closely monitoring this situation as its incidence has increased across the region,” said Osbourne Bodden, the health minister. “I want to assure the public that the Department of Public Health and the Mosquito Research and Control Unit are working together to keep a close watch – and are increasing their vigilance and mosquito control efforts to minimise the population of the vector.”

As of 23 June, cases of chikungunya have been confirmed in 24 countries in the Caribbean. 
The blood sample will also be tested for dengue and Dr Kumar encouraged everyone to take precautions regardless of the outcome of the test.

“Irrespective of confirmation or otherwise of this case as chikungunya or dengue, the public is being reminded to employ protective measures against mosquito bites locally or during their travels. Use mosquito repellents on skin and clothing, and when outdoors during times that mosquitoes are biting, wear long- sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks,” he advised.

While the MCRU are concentrating efforts to keep mosquito populations down in many cases the wider public can also help with simple precautions.

“People can greatly assist in reducing the local Aedes aegypti population by clearing their yards of containers that can hold water as these are favourite breeding sites for this mosquito,” MRCU Director Dr. William Petrie said.

As at 23 June,cases of chikungunya have been confirmed in 24 countries in the Caribbean.

For more advice on how to control mosquitoes in your yard, contact the MRCU on 949-2557 in Grand Cayman or 948-2223 in Cayman Brac; and DEH on 949-6696 in Grand Cayman or 948-2321 in Cayman Brac.

Key Facts on Chikungunya

  • Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. It causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.
  • The disease shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.
  • There is no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.
  • The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya.
  • Since 2004, chikungunya fever has reached epidemic proportions globally, with considerable morbidity and suffering.
  • The disease occurs in Africa, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In recent decades mosquito vectors of chikungunya have spread to Europe and the Americas. In 2007, disease transmission was reported for the first time in a localized outbreak in north-eastern Italy.

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Cost saving report buried

| 26/06/2014 | 57 Comments

(CNS): Cayman News Service has appealed a decision by the Education Ministry refusing a freedom of information request to release a 2011 report demonstrating how a substantial amount of money could be saved annually by amalgamating the two primary schools on Cayman Brac. Publication of the report and a related PowerPoint presentation, which was shown to a select group of parents in March this year, was blocked by Chief Officer Mary Rodrigues, who bypassed the ministry’s FOI manager and responded directly to the request, refusing on the grounds that the 3-year-old document contained proposals that have not yet gone to Cabinet for consideration. 

It is not clear when the PowerPoint presentation was made and for whom, but CNS understands that in March 2014, it was shown at a meeting of government officials, including Deputy Premier and district MLA Moses Kirkconnell, Sister Islands members of the Education Council and six parents of Brac children who were at the time the presidents and vice-presidents of the three Brac PTAs.

One of the parents who was at the meeting told CNS, “It was decided that it would not be feasible as it would put too much financial burden on the people of the island having to drive to 2 different sites, etc.”

The FOI request, made on 18 February this year, was partially granted and CNS was supplied with figures regarding the student/teacher ratios of primary schools in the Cayman Islands, as well as the Lighthouse School.

However, the documents regarding the amalgamation and what savings to the public purse could result were refused. Because the request was answered by the most senior officer at the ministry, the appeal was made to the Information Commissioner’s Office on 25 March, but no conclusion has yet been reached.

In her refusal letter, Rodrigues said it was not in the public interest to release the documents.

“[T]here must be space for public servants to provide advice and opinions and make a wide variety of policy recommendations for the consideration of Cabinet and Cabinet must be able to consider and make decision on these recommendations in a conscientious manner. As the proposals have not yet gone to Cabinet for consideration, it would be inappropriate at this time to prejudice Cabinet’s deliberation and potentially confuse the public regarding what policy direction the government intends to take by releasing the requested records.”

The chief officer also found that disclosure of the documents might “inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose of deliberation”. She claimed that civil servants “must be able to share all possible options and provide advice and recommendations freely and frankly to be considered by senior management and by policymakers in order to ensure decision-making processes are robust.”

An additional factor against the disclosure, Rodrigues said, was that public servants might feel “restrained in the execution of their duties by the fear of proposals that they make — particularly if those proposals are not accepted by the government and contain recommendations that would be unpopular among the general population — being made under the FOI Law.”

CNS journalist Nicky Watson said she believed the documents were being suppressed by dragging out the FOI process unnecessarily. “The arguments against disclosure could apply to almost any report in any government entity and certainly does not seem to be in the spirit of freedom of information,” she said. 

“Regarding the parents who have seen the presentation: PTA members have no expectation that their executive officers will provide input regarding important policy decisions on their behalf, in secret, and without consultation with the wider membership, and do not give them the authority to do so,” Watson noted. “Therefore, if the six parents were there in their capacity of PTA officials representing their members, it is reasonable to assume that the education officials would have expected the PTA members present to have passed on the information to, and asked for feedback from, their respective associations, thereby making the presentation, or at least the facts included, a public matter.

“If they were not present in their capacity of PTA presidents or VPs, then the government officials have now made their presentations to six members of the public with no authority or mandate to provide advice on public policy, thus also rendering it partially in the public domain. Either way, the government officials have now opened this presentation to public scrutiny. Having done so, they have negated the argument thatthis informationwas for Cabinet only.”

Watson added, “The original document by the ministry regarding cost savings by amalgamating the primary schools on Cayman Brac was, I understand, prepared in 2011. It is unreasonable to argue indefinitely that this is a matter for Cabinet to make a decision on before it is made public.”

“What I find most concerning is that, as well as saving money for the whole country, I understand that this proposal may include educational benefits to the children of Cayman Brac. The ministry needs to present if to all the parents and teachers on this island, not just a select few, so that they get real feedback from all the people that this would affect. I cannot imagine why they haven't already done so,” she said.

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Hospital to host critical illness symposium

| 26/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Health Services Authority is hosting its first Critical Illness Symposium, later this year to provide an educational platform for clinicians working in the field. Open to all healthcare providers, whether they work with patients who are critically ill or not, the event will be free to all locally registered medical professionals and will feature sessions aimed at managing acute conditions in adults and children, as well as lectures on acute deteriorations in neurological and mental health. In addition to local presenters, it will also feature experts from the US and the UK to host workshops and deliver talks.

Dr Elizabeth McLaughlin, Acting Chief Medical Officer and Clinical Head of Accident & Emergency and EMS, said the symposium will be relevant for a wide range of medical professionals. “Attendees will be able to rehearse scenarios that don’t happen every day and update themselves on current best practice. They might not be frontline emergency caregivers but can still improve how they might handle difficult situations within the limits of their expertise,” she added.

Tenet Healthcare, the sponsor, encouraged emergency responders, front line doctors and nurses and critical care clinicians in particular to take part.

“In collaboration with the H.S.A we have ensured that attendees will enjoy presentations from some of thetop medical professionals in their field,” said Dr Mercedes Dullum, the Medical Director with Tenet Healthcare International Services.

“These include Dr. Ali Shahriari, Cardiac and Vascular Surgeon with Tenet, Florida who will be presenting on the acutely unstable cardiovascular system, Dr Monty Mythen, Professor of Intensive Care University College, London, who will be giving a talk on fluid management, and Dr James Robertson, Consultant Paediatrician with Trincay, Cayman Islands, who will speak on how a critically ill child would present. We are sincerely grateful to these and all our distinguished speakers for donating their expertise to this significant event,” Dr Dullum said.

The symposium is scheduled to take place at The Westin Grand Cayman Resort 12 – 13 September 2014. 1It starts at 8:00am on Friday until 4:30pm) and then on Saturday from 8:00am until 10:30am. 

Registration is limited and interested persons should register as soon as possible.Contact Sharaine.chin@hsa.ky to register or for more information.

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Celebrities push for enlightened drug reform

| 26/06/2014 | 16 Comments

(CNS): Someof world's most famous actors, singers and entrepreneurs are calling on the UK government to end the pointless war on drugs and decriminalize drug consumption. In a letter to the British prime minister, over 90 celebrities such as Sting, Sir Richard Branson and Russell Brand, have condemned the criminalisation of drugs in the UK stating that the law punishing people for possession of drugs has led to the "unnecessary criminalisation" of 1.5m people in the past 15 years. Alongside the famous personalities the letter is back by organisations such as the Prison Governors Association and the National Black Police Association.

The letter which was drafted by the drug charity, Release, points out that in Portugal Australia and the Czech Republic where those suffering drug related problems are given medical treatment rather than a prison sentence the misuse of drugs falls.

In line with a switching mood around the world about the prevailing attitude towards drug use the celebrities are calling on David Cameron to introduce a more enlightened approach to drug law reform. The appeal to the UK leader is part of a wider action day against the war on drugs with protests scheduled for 100 cities across the world. In the UK, protesters made their voices heard in Parliament Square.

"The global day of action is a public show of force for drug policy reform", said Ann Fordham, who is executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, which focuses on issues related to drug production, trafficking and use. The tide is turning and governments need to urgently fix their drug policies and repair the damage that has been done," she added.

Back in February, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg urged the UK to end "the conspiracy of silence surrounding the failure of prohibition", telling the BBC "If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform."
Clegg said the war on drugs had caused "terrible conflict" in Colombia and that the Liberal Democrats would publish an alternative strategy for reform.

Over the last twenty years the price of drugs has dramatically declined and purity has increased, despite greater levels of interdiction than at any point in history, according to a report released last year by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP). The ICSDP cites the price declines in Europe of 51 per cent for cocaine and 74 per cent for heroin between the years 1990 and 2010, as evidence of the failure of law enforcement officials to restrict the supply of drugs.

 

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FAQs released on dump solution process

| 26/06/2014 | 10 Comments

(CNS): The ministry responsible for the controversial George Town landfill and the long road to a new waste-management system has released a fact sheet to the public about the process towards a solution. The document is in the form of questions and answers about the various steps that government is forced to take in order to address the issue, starting with an explanation of the Strategic Outline Case published last month and the remaining stages government will follow, from the planning to the development and finally the execution of a project that will result in a modern comprehensive waste-management system and deal with Mount Trashmore.

From the business case through to the procurement process, the contract management and the delivery of a solution and then its ongoing evaluation, officials said the FAQ was easy to digest and will help the public find answers to questions about the project.

“The document contains basic information about the direction of solid waste management in the Cayman Islands, such as government’s goals and objectives, the purpose of the strategic outline case, as well as benefits of the solid waste management project along with other useful details,” officials stated.

Having produced an outline business case, government is now preparing a request for proposals for a consultant to develop a solid waste management strategy, as well as an outline business case (OBC) for the future system and an overarching policy on what government wants to achieve and why.

However, despite the pressing concern, government is still a long way from finding experts to tackle the capital’s dump as well as those on the Sister Islands. Because of the size, scope and cost of the project, it is subject to the stringent guidelines set out in the Framework for Fiscal Responsibility, which was signed by the CIG in November 2011 with the UK and then adopted into the local Public Management and Finance Law.

Government has also stated that it will undertake comprehensive public consultations once it is in a position to develop the national solid waste management strategy after the outline business case is developed.

Until then, Osbourne Bodden, the minister responsible for the Department of Environmental Health, said he would continue to issue regular updates throughout the process.

“These FAQs aim to provide readily accessible, detailed information to readers and to keep the public engaged in this vital process,” Bodden stated.

See the FAQs below and a copy of the SOC.

For more information visit www.ministryofhealth.gov.ky.

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OECD: teachers love their job but feel undervalued

| 26/06/2014 | 3 Comments

(CNS): In a worldwide survey of teachers, the OECD found that in about half of the countries, one in four teachers spend at least 30% of lesson time handling classroom disruptions and administrative tasks. The survey of 100,000 teachers at secondary level in 34 countries also found that most teachers enjoy their job, despite feeling unsupported and unrecognised in schools and undervalued by society at large. Those countries where teachers feel valued tend to perform better in PISA, the OECD’s international assessment of student performance.
The Teaching and Learning International Survey found that more than nine out of ten teachers are satisfied with their jobs and nearly eight in ten would choose the teaching profession again. 

But fewer than one in three teachers believe teaching is a valued profession in society.

The average class size is 24 students. Teachers spend an average of 19 hours per week teaching,ranging from15 hours in Norway to 27 hours in Chile.

Of an average total of 38 hours of work, seven hours per week are spent preparing lessons, five hours per week marking, and two hours per week on school management, working with parents and extracurricular activities.

Most schools are well-resourced and teachers report positive relationships with their peers and school leaders. But more than a third of teachers work in schools where the principal reports significant staff shortages of qualified teachers, teachers for students with special needs, and support staff.

More than 100,000 teachers and school leaders at lower secondary level (for students aged 11-16) in 34 countries and economies took part in the OECD survey, which aims to help countries develop a high-quality teaching profession by better understanding who teachers are and how they work.

The survey shows that too many teachers still work in isolation, the OECD said in a release on the findings. Over half report rarely or never team-teaching with colleagues and only one third observe their colleagues teach. Feedback is also rare, with some 46% of teachers reporting they never receive any from their school leader, and less than a third (31%) believe that a consistently underperforming colleague would be dismissed.

But the survey shows that there is a lot teachers and school leaders can do about this: teachers who engage in collaborative learning have higher job satisfaction and confidence in their abilities. Participation in school decisions also boosts job satisfaction and makes teachers feel more valued in society.

“We need to attract the best and brightest to join the profession. Teachers are the key in today’s knowledge economy, where a good education is an essential foundation for every child’s future success,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, launching the survey in Tokyo. “This survey provides strong evidence that teachers are open to change and keen to learn and develop throughout their careers. At the same time, they need to take more initiative to work with colleagues and school leaders, and take advantage of every opportunity for professional development.”

The survey challenges some stereotypical views of the profession. For example, job satisfaction rates are much more affected by classroom behaviour than class size. And most teachers find appraisals and feedback constructive: 62% of teachers, on average across countries, said that the feedback they receive in their school led to moderate or large improvements in their teaching practices. But between 22% and 45% of teachers in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden said that they have never received feedback in their current school, compared to an average of 13% across the 34 countries surveyed.

Go to survey results

Read more about PISA

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CIFEC adding construction to vocational courses

| 26/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): Adding to the list of technical and vocational options offered to Year 12 students at the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC), Education Minister Tara Rivers said they are going to introduce construction courses in the next school year. She told CNS Business in today’s video interview that CIFEC has a very strong work experience programme and a number of employers are on board who are very happy with the partnership they have with CIFEC. Plus, she said, in a satisfaction survey 95% of the students said they were very happy to be in the work experience programme that CIFEC offers, where they spend two days per week at work and three at school. Read more on CNS Business

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Budget passed in nick of time

| 26/06/2014 | 13 Comments

(CNS): Government has been given the green light to spend almost three quarters of a billion dollars next year after legislators completed the work of Finance Committee and passed the appropriations bill on Wednesday when elected representatives returned to parliament. The bill will now go before the governor and be implemented in the nick of time before Monday’s 30 June deadline. MLAs spent eleven days examining the appropriations before finally voting on the bill which predicts that government will collect over $872 million in revenue. Tax payers were given only small breaks as government's hands remain tied by the UK's surplus requirements to address debt and the depleted reserves.

However, the man in the street can look forward to a small cut in fuel bills in January and import duty cuts on some retail goods.

The reduction of duty on diesel for CUC from 75 to 50 cents a gallon should see power bills come down by around 4%, and if merchants pass on the cuts to consumers the duty reductions for licensed traders of 2% starting in July may offer a tiny piece of relief at the tills, but there are no guarantees that retailers will cut prices.

The only other break is a cut in licence fees for small businesses with 10 or less workers, which will be cut as much as 75% depending on the location of the business. Civil servants are still without their 3.2% cost of living allowance but they will all receive a one off bonus in this month’s pay-packet of 2.5% of their yearly salary.

During Finance Committee no changes were made to any of government's spending plans but Ezzard Miller said he had welcomed the fair and transparent manner in which the finance minister had handled the questioning.

He said through the probing of the appropriations the public has a much better idea of what government is spending and why. Miller pointed out that no one knows what’s in a government annual budget until “it is plonked in front of us”, and as a result it is important that the opposition benches and government members all examine what the money is being used for.

The independent member for North Side said he had some concerns that in some cases ministers did not seem fully briefed about the spending that they are responsible for. “The ministers were not as tuned in as they could be and were deferring to their chief officers when they should have been able to answer questions. If a minister has gone through developing the budget they should know what is going on.”

Pointing to inconsistencies and the failure to justify some spending, he said, “When we see $2 million being spent on security guards opening doors at government buildings, that’s alarming,” Miller stated, as he pointed out that none of these employees are in a position to actually make anything secure.

He also raised concerns about areas where government departments are clearly not talking to each other, as in the case of the planned half-way house rehabilitation centre in West Bay. While government is giving money to the project, the facility has not actually got planning permission.

Incidences when the committee was misled were of particular concern, he added, especially over the airport porn scandal and the issue of the board’s interference in that reinstatement of the employee concerned and the circumstances surrounding the departure of the former CEO.

“We would expect people to put up their hands and admit what happened and what was going on,” he said, but remarked that the culture of rewarding people for “messing up”, as was seen last year at the ICTA, has lead to people believing that they will not be held accountable no matter what they do, Miller warned.

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Floating dock needs to be considered in EIA

| 26/06/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): A local hotelier is urging the government not to overlook the possibility of a floating dock as a genuine alternative to the current conventional designs that will shape the future request for proposals on the cruise berthing facility. The owner of the Holiday Inn, Reginald “Choppy” Delapenha, is pressing the tourism minister to include the concept of floating docks in the Environmental Impact Assessment that it has commissioned. Delapenha said that if government does not include this type of design, the RFP will not be able to accommodate a bid for what he is convinced will be a cheaper, environmentally safer, more suitable, dredge-free option for the proposed George Town facility. Read more on CNS Business

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Costa Rica’s leader ends president worship

| 26/06/2014 | 19 Comments

(CNS): There will be no lifetime honours, accolades or buildings named after the newly elected president of Costa Rica, who has decreed that he does not want his image posted on walls, his name on plaques at public buildings or any other displays of presidential worship. Objecting to the usual glorification of national leaders, Luis Guillermo Solis, who was sworn in office last month, has said he doesn’t want his portrait hung in public offices or his name on public projects, as he said it gives the wrong impression.

“The works are from the country and not from a government or a particular official," he told international reporters after signing a decree that puts an end to the worship of the president.

Future commemorative plaques will only bear the year the project was inaugurated rather than the name of the administration, said the new leader, who, based on the election results, is nevertheless a popular choice.

Solis, from the country’s centre-left Citizen Action Party (PAC), took 31% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election in February. Solis then got so much support, his main rival decided to stop campaigning and effectively dropped out of the second round race, leaving him to take 78% of the national vote.

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