IT seems that the St. Jude Hospital saga will not be going away anytime soon as politicians on both sides of the aisle this week had another go at each other over the matter.
Alva Baptiste, 1st Deputy Political Leader of the Opposition, at a press conference Thursday stated that Prime Minister Allen Chastanet was engaging in storytelling and fiction when he spoke of building a new hospital on a new site.
Baptiste said that to plan a hospital alone would take more time than the two year timeframe that has been mentioned and that the only option left to the Government is to complete St. Jude Hospital.
“Again, this is no time for Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to engage in storytelling.” Baptiste stated, when asked about the proposed new world-class hospital on a new site.
He added that “We know as a party, that…a normal cycle to develop, plan and design a hospital takes between five and ten years; just to design and plan it. How can a Government claim that it is interested in the quality of healthcare and in two years you can build a hospital, when the planning would take more than two years?”
Baptiste then accused the Government of intending to hand the hospital over to foreign entities and replace it with something subpar; before once again demanding that they complete the hospital.
“So what they want to do is to hand over OKEU Hospital and St. Jude Hospital to private concerns and probably build a little shed, some type of warehouse like a factory shell, take a steel frame, put some blocks of plywood, have a big space and say that this is a hospital. This is completely unacceptable.” He stated.
Baptiste added that “There is nothing wrong with St. Jude and therefore the Government has no alternative but to complete the St. Jude Hospital and transfer the nurses, the doctors and the patients, back to the St. Jude Hospital. This is not subject to debate or compromise as far as the Opposition is concerned.”
This comes on the heels of the back and forth between the two at Tuesday’s sitting of the Lower House of Assembly, with Baptiste telling the Prime Minister to “finish the hospital” and the Prime Minister’s retort being that the Labour Party is “asking people to do what [they] themselves could not do…”
At that House meeting, Chastanet also accused the Labour Party of spending much on St. Jude but not working, given that the hospital was not completed.
“It’s amazing to me Mr. Speaker that members from the other side…spent how much? 118 million dollars and counting and that [the hospital] is not even 50% completed.” Chastanet said.
He went on to call it “the greatest horror that has taken place in this country”, stating that the deplorable condition of the hospital existed during the Labour Administration “and now [they] want to come and talk about…the people’s lives are being jeopardised?”
To Baptiste he said “there’s a big difference between spending money and working.” before stating that “They were not working. They were just spending money…Spending money!”
In recent weeks Chastanet has said that his Government will not build a subpar hospital in the South and that if St. Jude is going to be fixed it’s going to be made into a world class facility; something that will take at least a year and a half.
“The analysis that we have done has shown that whatever we do to try to fix up the existing facility, [it] is going to be substandard, meaning that in order to be able to move in, we’re gonna have to accept substandard standards.” Chastanet said at a press conference a few weeks ago.
He also said that “if in fact we are to fix St. Jude and [bring] it to an international level, the estimates are showing that it’s going to cost us in excess of $120 million and it’s gonna take…a year and a half to do that.”
On the possibility of building a new hospital Chastanet said; “the question becomes, is it cheaper to fix up the existing facility or is it cheaper to start and build something new?”
“I went to Cayman; I saw a world class hospital that was built in one year. And here we are with OKEU; we started construction with OKEU in 2009; 2018 we’re still looking to move in.” he added.
The decision on St. Jude may come within the next few weeks, as at the above referenced conference, the Prime Minister said that “we’re hoping that within the next thirty days that we’ll be able to definitively say how we’re going to solve the problem at St. Jude.”