Public health advisor Dr Douglas Lush. MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD/22031801
Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health has apologised to the Cook Islands News and its readers after a senior health staff made misleading comments about cats on Aitutaki getting tested for Covid-19.
The comments were made by Te Marae Ora public health advisor Dr Douglas Lush, who told the newspaper that cats on the island would be tested for Covid on Friday (yesterday).
The lead story in Friday’s Cook Islands News titled ‘Covid test for Aitutaki cats’, quoted Dr Lush saying: “Aitutaki’s resources are not stretched, so we’re able to provide this service for anyone concerned their pet might be infected. Cats display similar symptoms to humans when they catch Covid-19. That means runny noses, sneezing, and the like.”
Before publishing, Cook Islands News spoke to Dr Lush to confirm that it was not a joke. The newspaper was assured that his comments were genuine.
However yesterday Dr Lush told the newspaper his comments about cats getting Covid-19 test was a “prank”.
Cook Islands News filed a complaint against him with Secretary of Health Bob Williams and Public Service Commissioner Carl Hunter.
“This nation, along with the rest of the world, is in a battle against Covid-19 disinformation, and it is really disappointing that a senior health official finds this situation a joke,” the newspaper said in its complaint.
Williams in a letter to the Cook Islands News yesterday said: “I want to apologise unequivocally on behalf of Te Marae Ora for the very unfortunate incident that led to the lead story of today’s CI News.”
“I wish to assure readers and others that these statements were not endorsed or condoned by Te Marae Ora.
“I wish to assure the community that this behaviour does not meet the standard we expect from staff or contractors to Te Marae Ora, and I will be taking the matter up with Dr Lush.
“I apologise unreservedly for any distress or confusion caused.”
Dr Lush yesterday said he was sorry for his remarks relating to the Covid-19 testing of cats on Aitutaki.
“I apologise unreservedly and unconditionally for anyone who was misled and distressed by the comments,” he said.
“No cats were harmed on April 1.”
However Prime Minister Mark Brown downplayed the matter during a press conference with this newspaper.
“I myself got sucked in, I must admit,” Brown said. “I was advised by one of my Minister’s that this was a very good April Fools’ Day headline.”
“I think we all need a bit of good humour every now and then, take it in good spirits.”
Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel on 03/04/2022
Unconscionable stupidity from a health professional!