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Education Chief Slams Union Leader Amid Scabies Alarm

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

EDUCATION Director Lionel Sands yesterday denied reports that a third school had been quarantined due to a severe scabies outbreak and criticised the Bahamas Union of Teachers president, calling her actions in the matter “way out of line”.

According to Mr Sands, Public Health Authority (PHA) officials carried out “a simple screening exercise” at Yellow Elder Primary school on Wednesday. Mr Sands added that all protocols were followed by Department of Education officials.

Sources within the Ministry of Education told The Tribune that, following the screening exercise, one student was referred to a local clinic for further testing and the school given “the all clear”.

He insisted that actions by Belinda Wilson, the BUT president, in recent weeks over claims of potential scabies cases in schools were over the top. Mr Sands claimed that the union president “interrupted and confused” matters with her actions.

“She did not get permission to enter the school from myself,” Mr Sands said. “She needs permission. She has to understand that there is a decorum and protocol that should be followed when handling these sorts of issues.

“Scabies remains a health matter, despite it occurring in the school. It is our job to refer it to the health professionals and that is what we did in the Yellow Elder matter.

“That’s all that is required of us. We allowed the health officials to come in, screen the students and any person suspected to have contracted the virus was subsequently referred to the clinic. In respect to whatever the (BUT) president has to say, that is really all we can do. She is not a medical professional, nor am I. She has to learn to allow the clinical professionals to do their job, before she starts interrupting matters.

“Scabies, like a flu, if a child is suspected of having it we refer them to the clinic. We say to parents ‘the child is ill, take them to the clinic for treatment’. That is the extent of our role in this matter.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Glen Beneby said on Monday that it is up to the public to prevent the spread of ailments like scabies. He indicated that health officials have centres in place to monitor infectious illnesses but suggested the public would be key in preventing the spread of ailments.

Last week, Mr Sands confirmed that D W Davis and T A Thompson had to be temporarily closed for extermination to begin after some students tested positive for scabies.

Initial reports of scabies surfaced after BUT officials updated their union’s Facebook page with a message about the infection at D W Davis. They warned teachers to be on the lookout for the infection and to immediately report it if they suspected a child has it. Reports surfaced the following Monday that teachers at D W Davis staged a sit-in to protest the situation.

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