Letters & Opinion

St. Jude and the Art of the Con — Part 5: Man’s Inhumanity to Man

David Prescod
By David Prescod, Engineer & Project Manager — former CEO of WASCO

SEVENTY thousand – the population served by St. Jude Hospital in 2016. The number of patients seen by this hospital in 2016: 47,355. These are some of the figures released by the Board of St. Jude Hospital on September 12, 2017 as the anniversary of the fire that destroyed the hospital on September 9, 2009 was recognized.

That press release continued with: “In recognition of the conditions under which staff operate and the environment within which patients are served, the Board of Directors of St. Jude Hospital affirms its commitment to working with the Government of St. Lucia to successfully transition the hospital to its original site.”

It was not the first time that the Board of St. Jude had been reduced to begging the Government of St. Lucia to complete the new facility, as on March 8 this year, the Board had inspected the suspended construction works, in the company of senior medical personnel, and issued a similar plea.

Also on September 12, we heard another impassioned plea from the Board’s Chairman, describing the atrocious conditions under which patients were being cared for at the temporary stadium location of this hospital and begging for the hospital to be returned to its original site.

As if in response to those latest pleas, the Minister of Health informed the nation on the same date of the Board’s press release, September 12, that resolution of this crisis was not in sight, and that one of the options remained the demolition of the buildings reconstructed at the original site and making a fresh start.

In an attempt to pour oil over waters troubled afresh by the Minister of Health’s statement, Minister Guy Joseph then informed the public on September 25 that demolition did not mean demolition of all of the structures recently constructed, leaving even greater confusion in the public mind as to why a sum of EC$100 million would be required to remedy whatever defects had supposedly been found.

But Minister Joseph has an even greater problem of explanation on his hands, as his initial reasons for terminating the consultants to this project were that they had been responsible for the delay in completion of the project, and that he believed that there had been widespread fraud in its execution (See “Our Right to Know” – Part 4). While no fraud has been demonstrated to date, the insinuations of fraud continue to be inflicted on the public mind mercilessly, except that now, they are combined with what the public is being led to believe are horrible defects in the reconstruction of St. Jude.

But following the impassioned plea of the Chairman and the request for transfer of the hospital to its original site by the Board, the Prime Minster made two statements. The first, also on September 12, indicated that his government was undecided on whether or not the reconstruction of St. Jude should be completed. Then, at his press conference on October 5, the Prime Minister advised that his government would be studying the issue over the next few weeks at the end of which time a decision would be taken.

We will return to the statements made by Prime Minister Chastanet at that October 5 press conference, but allow me to close by reminding the Prime Minister of his statement to the staff of the hospital on June 29, 2017 (youtube.com/watch?v=c5hsE0bY9cY):

“Unfortunately, a lot of the rooms were not built to specification, so for instance, even when you have rooms that are supposed to have operations in it (sic), it was not designed to be able to put the equipment in it.

“…Can we downsize the expectations in terms of the number of beds; prioritize some of the things – dialysis, the emergency ward, the operation room? Can we move in there and get those things functioning and meanwhile get some of the other things rectified?…I know that there has been a meeting with the St. Jude’s Board, there is now (sic) a meeting with the Ministry of Finance in terms of how quickly we can get stuff started up again so we can try to get into the new hospital as quickly as possible.”

“…And so, certainly we’re not talking about a year. Idealistically, we would like to move in by the end of this year…but certainly, no less (sic) than one year we should be in the facility and if we can get in even quicker we will.”

We would like to know what changed between the Prime Minister’s statement of June 29, 2017 and his obvious policy reversal of October 5, 2017, as all of the supposed problems associated with St. Jude were known at the time of his first statement in June.

Sick people are being subjected to inhumane treatment at St. Jude, Prime Minister, all while you continue to ignore the Chairman of the Board’s pleas that the keys for this hospital be handed over to him.

We continue with Part 6 next week.

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