Letters & Opinion

Healthcare For Sale In St. Lucia

THE question of healthcare delivery in St. Lucia has been the subject of public and political debate for some considerable time. We’ve had fires, electrical failures, inadequate human resources, leaking stadium roofs, and the ongoing saga of the Owen King European Union hospital (OKEU). At the governmental level, it’s been an ongoing drama of to-ing and fro-ing, as to who should cast the first stone.

Meanwhile, the St. Lucian public is either dying to receive the level of healthcare expected, or just plain dying, whilst the politicians who are charged with addressing this situation don’t, or can’t, provide solutions whilst Rome burns.

The current debate about the future of the OKEU should be of major concern to all of us. According to recent GOSL pronouncements, The Prime Minister awaits proposals from the likes of Health City Cayman Islands (HCCI) and the Cleveland Clinic. It is common knowledge that HCCI officials were recently traipsing around OKEU demanding to know on whose authority the St. Lucian staff they encountered there had started to work! HCCI were properly referred to the Ministry of Health, who duly issued the necessary instructions to the bewildered staff, to answer any questions posed.

As usual, the public, and possibly the Cabinet of Ministers, have apparently been kept in the dark as to the extent of the relationship between HCCI and our government. There have not been any disclosures about the Cleveland Clinic, but we do know the Prime Minister, accompanied by the Minister for Economic Planning, and the Minister responsible for Tourism in The Prime Minister’s office, visited HCCI in the Caymans..

For those of us who don’t know, HCCI operates a one hundred plus bed (2000) hospital in the Cayman Islands with plans, apparently to expand to 2000 rooms – the parent company comes from India, and have pioneered the provision of affordable healthcare there. This begs the question as to what their mission really is in Grand Cayman, an island less than half the size of St. Lucia – 102 square miles to our 238 – a population of fifty thousand as opposed to our 180 thousand or thereabouts, and a per capita GDP of US$50 thousand to our US$7 thousand. Do the Cayman Islanders really need 2000 beds to provide the level of healthcare which they must have grown accustomed to, with such easy access to Miami, or have HCCI set up shop to encourage health tourism in a destination which is already popular with the rich and famous?

Which should make us wonder: have Ernst & Young advised the Prime Minister to avoid asking the French for help in managing our decrepit health care service? After all, they’ve been helping us with healthcare for as long as anyone can remember. Even The Prime Minister should be happy to invite them in – remember, he was born there, for the same reason that our citizens continue to use Martinique. It would be interesting to discover how many St. Lucians are treated there annually, and the true cost of the training which they have provided over the past several years. Or, will HCCI provide the necessary training? Perhaps we will no longer need St. Lucian staff to look after us, assuming we can afford to pay.

The OKEU was donated to St. Lucia as a public good. The EU must be furious at this turn of events, which suggests that their gift may very well become a for-profit entity, which will be out of reach of the original, intended beneficiaries. Led by the French, it is not inconceivable that future aid packages to St. Lucia could be put on hold, pending rock-solid assurances from GOSL that the original purpose of such packages will not be abrogated. If the French have not been invited to submit a proposal, they having contributed to the delivery/donation of the OKEU, the public should be told why they don’t qualify. Can we please have some transparency, and parliamentary discussion about such an important issue.

For now, Healthy

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