– New Timeline Given For Owen King-EU Hospital
EC$180 million Owen King-EU Hospital (OKEU), which is part of the Millennium Highway Medical Complex, should be ready for business later this year.
But the transition from the aged Victoria Hospital (VH) to the spanking new two-storey, concrete reinforced facility will be in three stages which are expected to be completed later this year as well.
Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Health, Felix St. Hill, made the long-awaited announcement at a news conference on Thursday.
The hospital, which was named in February last year, has had its fair share of political drama and frustrations from both St. Lucians and its sponsors, the European Commission (EC), at its delayed opening.
The EU, which gave St. Lucia 40 million Euros as a grant to build the hospital, gave another grant of 8.972 million Euros to finance the hospital’s equipment and furniture.
While St. Hill did not give an exact date for the opening of the hospital, he made it clear that the transition from VH to the OKEUH should be before year-end.
But under what management model will the new hospital be administered?
Health and Wellness Minister, Mary Isaac, was adamant that the hospital will not go the privatization route but has not dismissed a partnership. She said her Ministry sent out invitations to interested parties to partner with government in managing the facility.
“We are still accepting people who want to bring proposals in terms of coming in as a partner, but that will not cause the hospital to be privatized,” Isaac said, adding that the hospital will be run by a board of directors.
“At one point in time, we knew legislation was passed that spoke to the Millennium Heights Medical Complex. That legislation speaks of a board running the new hospital. We have started accepting that the best model would probably be to utilize a board. We are looking at that as the way forward,” Isaac said.
However, she noted that all relevant stakeholders would have to be consulted before the finalization of the preferred model.
“This is the stage that we are at right now, but it’s very likely that we would go with a board on transferring from VH to OKEUH,” Isaac said.
The first phase of the transition from VH to OKEUH will be the transfer of non-clinical services like the out-patient clinic, physiotherapy, pharmacy and departments of management and administration.
The second phase will include transferring the lab services, intensive care unit and moving patients from VH to OKEUH.
The third phase will include the transfer of everything else from VH to the OKEUH.
The domestic assistants (orderlies) will be transferred at every phase.
According to Isaac, the issues that will arise from the transitional phases will be addressed.
St. Hill called on the public to bear with his team during the transition as this is an exercise done for the first time in the country.
“It’s a mammoth task. We hope the public has patience while we relocate. There will be some teething problems but our professional staff in the Ministry will resolve all the problems that will surface,” he said.
He added: “It’s a task we must undertake because the old structure, VH, is bursting at the seams and costing us dearly to maintain.”