AS the Government of St. Lucia via the Ministry of Health and Wellness advance commissioning plans for the Owen King EU Hospital, staff associations and unions representing workers at the Victoria Hospital were specially invited on a familiarization tour of the facility last Thursday.
In attendance were executive members of the National Workers Union (NWU), St. Lucia Civil Service Association (CSA), St. Lucia Nurses Association and St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA).
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Verena Calderon, said the objective of the tour was to provide the unions the opportunity to see firsthand the working environment at the hospital and to clarify queries or concerns of members pertaining to the new working environment.
“We got a good feeling from them (and) they were very happy for the tour. They had some questions which we hope to answer and any recommendations made we will try to bring them on board to ensure that when we open everyone will be comfortable,” Calderon said.
Deputy President General for the NWU, Solace Myers, thanked the Ministry of Health for affording the union its first tour of the hospital. She shared her impressions of the facility and the expectations for her members.
“For us, what we will say is it’s very impressive in terms of what we had before and what we’re coming to,” Myers said. “In terms of the technology, we are happy to see that everything is state- of-the-art and up-to-date. We are really looking forward in terms of what this hospital can mean to St. Lucia — not just for the general public — but in terms of the regional services that can be offered.”
She added: “In terms of our members, obviously one of the most basic things we have seen so far is the training, especially in terms of the equipment that would be expected of them. So we’re really interested in finding out what training plan, what strategic plan that the board, the management and the ministry have in place as regards the training of the staff, the maintenance of the equipment and making sure that people are basically equipped to handle whatever it is that is expected of them.”
CSA President, Yvonne Edwin, articulated the primary concerns of her members as it relates to transitioning to the new facility.
Said Edwin: “You want to ensure that the members are treated fairly in terms of the transition to this new facility. Obviously, they would need to adjust. There are requirements for an orientation to ensure that they are familiar with the new surroundings. I think these are the primary concerns and once these questions are answered when is the hospital going to be opened, how will the staff transition from VH into this new facility, will adequate training be provided, this has been answered. But sometimes from a member’s perspective it may not seem adequate enough. So once these are clarified, I think transitioning into the hospital is progress for St. Lucia and it is one that the union will continue to support.”
Newly-installed President of the SLMDA, Dr.Alphonsus St. Rose, though generally impressed with the facility, had some concerns with work flow design and layout in some areas of the hospital. He also highlighted the high maintenance cost of the facility.
“My greatest concern here is how are we going to maintain this facility. I think that’s a nightmare for anybody who is going to take on this facility,” he said.
The high maintenance cost of running the new hospital has been acknowledged by the government of St. Lucia. Via the Ministry of Health, government has issued expressions of interest to partner with private sector service providers in outsourcing some of the services required at the OKEUH and associated medical facilities. This is to ensure the required services are delivered to the healthcare system with maximum efficiency at an affordable cost.