PM says he's okay after health scare
PRIME Minister P J Patterson last night assured the country that he was feeling better and resting comfortably at Vale Royal after falling ill at a "Live and Direct" forum in Portmore, St Catherine earlier in the night.
"I am in good nick," quipped Patterson in a late-night interview with JIS News after being thoroughly examined by his doctors -- Orrin Barrow and Charlie Benbow, a heart specialist.
"I would like to thank, sincerely, all those who expressed their concerns and, particularly to the people of Portmore who turned out in such large numbers and who have been waiting to hear that I am well," Patterson said, his voice cracking in parts.
Earlier, at a hurriedly-called news conference at Jamaica House, Information Minister Colin Campbell told journalists that "the prime minister is very comfortable and fully conscious and is even making his usual jokes".
Dr Barrow did not give a diagnosis of Patterson's illness, but said the prime minister would undergo several more tests and advised that he should rest today.
Patterson was several minutes into his speech to a packed auditorium at the Portmore Heart Academy when he went silent and sat down.
"It was obvious, from his voice, that something was wrong with him," Granville Newell, who is Patterson's press secretary, told journalists before the emergency news conference.
Newell said that after Patterson sat down, an aide gave him a glass of water and he tried to resume speaking, but was unable to and just leaned forward.
That promoted his bodyguards to lift him from the auditorium and place him in his car.
A call was apparently made to the Tony Thwaites Wing of the University Hospital of the West Indies to expect Patterson, but, according to Campbell, the prime minister asked to be taken to Vale Royal.
Patterson has maintained a heavy schedule over the last 22 days, travelling abroad on at least three occasions, touring flood-damaged sections of Portland and St Mary, presiding over lengthy meetings and attending several local functions.
"I have been in this job for the past 15 days and the prime minister has not taken a day off in that time," said Campbell, who took over the information portfolio on November 1.
Newell, who had travelled with Patterson to New York on October 25 to attend a memorial service for Caribbean nationals who died in the World Trade Centre bombing in September, said that at that function, Patterson had a slight problem with his voice and had to be served water during his speech.
Last night was a near replay of Patterson's experience in Portmore in 1993 when, during an address to a political meeting, this time at Bridgeport, he collapsed.
"I don't know why this always happens when I come to Portmore," Patterson was overheard mumbling after he recovered from the first attack last night.
Patterson, who took over the leadership of the People's National Party in March 1992 from Michael Manley and was appointed prime minister the following month, celebrated his 66th birthday on April 10.