Gov’t Assures EU Delegation.
THE new national hospital’s doors should finally be opened to the public by the second half of this year.
European Union Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barfod, told the media last Thursday that the hospital was among the matters discussed with Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, when a three-member EU team met with the Saint Lucian leader recently.
Barfod said the official handover of the final acceptance of the hospital buildings will take place “very soon” and that the final contracts to equip the new health care facility will be signed “within weeks”.
“The final delivery should be taking place in the beginning of the second half of this year,” Barfod said. “I’m especially pleased that the French government has offered to assist us with the transition in the initial administration of the hospital.”
Barfod said the requisite staffing of the new hospital – named the Dr. Owen King-EU Hospital –remains an outstanding issue. However, he said assistance from the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) should assist in the hospital’s transitional stage, thereby enabling it to become a centre of health care excellence in the region.
There’s one catch, though: the hospital, located at Millennium Heights, will not be fully operational by its intended opening date later this year. Barfod said a partial opening of the hospital has been decided upon by the stakeholders, adding that the European Union has already injected $38 million into what is being touted as a state-of-the-art hospital.
During the Throne Speech last May, Governor-General Dame PearletteLouisy indicated that government had hoped to open both the Dr. Owen King-EU Hospital and new St. Jude Hospital by May this year.
Both hospitals, Dame Pearlette had said, represented an investment of more than $270 million into the island’s health sector.
Describing the European Union’s contribution to the new national hospital as “the largest single donation made by the European Union in the Eastern Caribbean”, Dame Pearlette said up-skilling and training staff and installing specialized equipment were underway.
Accompanying Barfod last Thursday were French Ambassador to Saint Lucia, Eric de la Moussaye and British High Commissioner to Barbados, Victoria Dean. Among the other topics said to have been discussed with the Prime Minister were the outstanding concerns the European Union has with Saint Lucia’s pace of investigations following the findings of the IMPACS report.
While the three-member panel said they are due to meet with Dr. Anthony either late March or early April for a follow-up on the progress of the Prime Minister’s commitments to push that investigation forward, they steered clear of commenting on whether the already-constructed hospital’s opening is contingent upon such commitments. However, Ambassador de la Moussaye said France hopes for a favourable response from the Saint Lucian government.
“We have to be confident,” de la Moussaye said. “We’ll come back at the end of March to find out if the measures have been taken effectively. So that’s very important for us. I think we won’t stay cross-armed like that all the time. We want to be friends with Saint Lucia and help your government succeed.”
During a signing ceremony held at the Office of the Prime Minister in January, 2013, Barfod said the following:
“The value of the EU portfolio of ongoing projects in Saint Lucia is now EC$168 million, which includes EC$130 million for the construction of the new National Hospital which we hope to open later in 2013 together with the government.”