CONTROVERSY is brewing between the main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and the Government of St. Lucia over which one of them first mooted the privatization of hospitals in St. Lucia, particularly the Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet this week told reporters that his administration is favouring privatization, and so too was the opposition.
“We’ve made that point clear…that (we) would prefer to go into a private structure.
St. Jude is privatised and so is Tapion. In fact even the former Government also agreed to that,” Chastanet said.
But the SLP was quick to denounce the Prime Minister’s comments of its involvement in the privatization aspect of the hospital.
“It is convinced that there are no limitations to the Prime Minister’s disregard for the truth,” noted the SLP.
The release from the SLP claimed that “this untruth can easily be debunked”. It went on to cite the Millenium Heights Medical Complex Act that was passed in the House of Parliament in 2015 which read that the aforementioned was “An Act to establish the Millenium Heights Medical Complex and provide for the establishment of the medical complex and for related matters.”
The party promised to issue a full statement on the matter at a subsequent press conference, however prior to press time yesterday, claimed that it was reliably informed that the Government of Saint Lucia is on the verge of signing an agreement with a foreign entity to privatize the OKEU Hospital.
“The Opposition urges the government not to pursue such a policy without the widest possible consultation with all parties including the doctors, nurses and other health-care workers. Privatizing health services can come at a huge price to the people of Saint Lucia particularly the lower income earners and the poor of the country,” noted the SLP release.
Political leader Philip J. Pierre urged the Prime Minister to enter into serious dialogue and consultation before making any undertaking to any foreign or local entity that will lead to privatization of health services in the island.
The government’s decision to go along with privatization of the island’s premier health facility came as a surprise since Health and Wellness Minister Mary Isaac, last September stated that “Right now we do not envisage any privatization of our national hospital”
She stated that government was still accepting people who wanted to bring proposals in, in terms of coming in as a partner. The Senator reemphasized that “that will not cause the hospital to be privatized.”