THE controversy surrounding St. Jude Hospital, the Owen King EU Hospital and the general healthcare situation in the country took an unusual turn this past week as government, the opposition and healthcare professionals all took to the media to outline their various points of view.
First it was Prime Minister Allen Chastanet who on Monday stoutly denied claims that the representatives of the Cayman Islands-based Health City group that were on island were demanding that government hand over the Owen King EU Hospital, contrary to social media claims to that effect.
The prime minister said that the group was on island for talks with government and “reviewing the process” with hopes of eventually preparing a proposal to the government. He also admitted that he was in dialogue with several other groups to decide the future of the hospital, including the style of management to be adopted.
St. Lucia has been swamped with reports in recent days that the government would be privatizing the hospital and that representatives of the Cayman Islands-based private group were on-island for that purpose.
Chastanet and the Prime Minister’s Office categorically rejected such reports earlier this week, saying this was not the case and insisted his government had not yet finally decided on the future of the hospital.
But the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is not convinced — and although not addressing the privatization issue directly at its press conference Thursday, the opposition party clearly indicated that the presence of foreign agents in hospitals asking questions and meeting with nurses posed a danger to the healthcare systems here, as they highly depend on confidentiality and privacy.
Chairman of the Board of St. Jude Hospital Dr Ulric Mondesir, on Tuesday (May 1) submitted his resignation with immediate effect.
But at Thursday’s press conference, Vieux Fort North MP Moses ‘Musa’ Jn Baptiste, who is also the SLP’s Chairman and spokesperson on Health, called for the entire board to also resign immediately, saying the Labour Party had been reliably informed that rancor exists among members.
“It is very clear that the current members of the board are with the government in terms of the way they are handling the St. Jude Reconstruction Project,” Jn. Baptiste said.
He added, “The entire board, I believe, should resign and allow for clear thinking and fresh minds to urge the government to continue the St. Jude Reconstruction Project.”
Meanwhile the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association, which over the past three weeks has been vocal on the issues dealing with the hospitals and the healthcare situation in the country, this week outlined a list of preliminary recommendations it wants the government to consider.
The Association stated that St. Jude can be completed at a cost phenomenally less than it would take to build a new facility and in much less time (six to ten months), an analysis from which it made its preliminary recommendations.
The Association called on the government to handle St. Jude as a priority matter and commence work without further delays — and that its completion be done in a phased manner and completed by no later than February 2019.
Another recommendation was to give priority to completing the East (Medical) Wing at St. Jude, because it can house all critical departments presently operational at the George Odlum Stadium.
Other recommendations include both St. Jude and Owen King EU remaining public for the benefit of all citizens; that the OKEU board be established soonest (within one month) to conform to the legal requirements established in the Millennium Heights Medical Complex Act of 2015; and that the National Insurance Corporation be considered as the principal provider of the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme.