‘Health Care Services In Crisis’ – Jn. Baptiste

Minister of Agriculture Moses Jn. Baptiste
Image: PARLIAMENTARY Representative for Vieux Fort North, Moses Jn. Baptiste
PARLIAMENTARY Representative for Vieux Fort North, Moses Jn. Baptiste

PRESS RELEASE – SINCE the UWP took office in 2016, and the appointment of Senator Mary Isaac as Minister for Health and Wellness, we have witnessed a rapid decline in the government’s attention to the serious issues of health in Saint Lucia and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Our primary health care services which are made up of our health centres and their services are lacking government’s support and in some cases outright neglect. The strength of any health care system in a country depends on the organization and strength of the primary health systems, infrastructure and services.

What has happened to the refurbishment of the burnt La Ressource Health Centre? The situation at Richfond Health Centre has become critical.

Why has the government not started work on the Anse La Raye Health Centre? Allocations and negotiations were done by the Saint Lucia Labour Party government, yet this health centre has not started.

The conditions of beds and equipment at the hospitals have not improved. The UWP, in opposition, had their candidates visit St. Jude Hospital to expose the beds, bed sheets and other problems, yet there is still an urgent need to supply our hospitals with basic supplies.

Why has the Owen King-EU Hospital not been opened?

The Minister for Health has been absent, seems confused or missing at work in relation to the major health issues in Saint Lucia.

The people of Saint Lucia need to know what is happening with the Owen King-EU Hospital. What has happened to the Owen King EU Commissioning Team? The people of Saint Lucia have not received updates on the progress of this new hospital and the government has placed it on the back-burner.

It has been reported that 12 dialysis machines will be operational at the Owen King-EU Hospital before the hospital is commissioned. Is this the same Prime Minister who, when campaigning for office, promised to lead a march on the hospital to get dialysis machines working? Why has he not explained why those dialysis machines are not yet in operation and helping Saint Lucians in 2018 — eighteen months after taking office?

This is the same party, now in government, which claimed that people were dying because of non-commissioning of dialysis machines at the Owen King-EU Hospital. Eighteen months after winning an election in 2016, the government is planning to provide dialysis services without the other medical services present at the hospital.

Was the government advised by professional medical personnel to operate dialysis machines without the other medical services of the hospital?

Who made that decision and what are the possible consequences if dialysis patients at the Owen King-EU Hospital were to develop complications? Would you then rush them by ambulance to Victoria Hospital? Is that consistent with best medical practice or driven by political expediency?

There is valuable and lifesaving equipment for the Owen King-EU Hospital that was ordered for the treatment of Saint Lucians. However, Saint Lucians continue to travel to Martinique, Barbados and other countries while this government pays scant regard to the completion and commissioning of the hospital.

The Prime Minister has stated publicly his intentions to privatize the Owen King-EU Hospital. Is it true that the government is about to hand over the Owen King-EU Hospital to a private operator? What will happen to thousands of Saint Lucians who access the services of Victoria Hospital? What will happen to the staff compliment of Victoria Hospital?

There are weekly reports of major inconveniences that continue at both Victoria Hospital and the St. Jude Hospital: shortages of vital medication and basic supplies, equipment, faulty generators, electrical problems, or lack of response by central government. The people of Saint Lucia who access the hospitals can attest and can testify the stories, some of which are horror stories.

While our medical professionals and staff of the two major hospitals do their very best and do not report their frustrations publicly, they face enormous challenges that have intensified with this government’s neglect.

St. Jude Hospital at the stadium is a disaster waiting, if the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers do not urgently complete work on the St. Jude Hospital to return the patients and medical professionals to a much more secure and adequate facility. All of the evidence suggests that the UWP government is allowing patients and the medical professionals and staff of the St. Jude Hospital to suffer, for purely private profiteering and political reasons. Is the government in discussions with private businesses to allegedly sell the incomplete St. Jude Hospital? Why is the government not giving the people of Saint Lucia an update on the future of the hospital?

The Prime Minister promised to make a definite statement on the fate of St. Jude Hospital by December 2017, but to date we have not heard any statement on the fate of St. Jude Hospital.

The Soufriere Hospital suffered from two fires. The Minister for Health has not clarified the position of the government on the Soufriere Hospital. Is it true that the hospital property will also be sold? If so, what are the plans for another location for the Soufriere Hospital?

Fellow Saint Lucians, ladies and gentlemen, what we have in Saint Lucia today is a health system on crutches, a system of hospitals and health centres that are not receiving the focus and priority of the UWP government. Every Saint Lucian must stop and focus on the eventual possibility that all of us will at some point need to access our health services and we need to feel that our government is paying attention.

Much progress had been made between 2011 and 2016 to revamp the primary health care system with the refurbishing of many health centres, the St. Jude Hospital project was continuing and much progress had been made, a Commissioning Team was in place for the Owen King-EU Hospital and preparations were being made to put universal health care back on track which our government started during the 1997-2006 term in office.

We cannot be comfortable with the unavailability of medications and the acute shortage of pharmacists on this island. We cannot be happy with the lack of progress on our hospitals. We cannot be still while the UWP government reduces support to our children who are challenged and who receive specialist care .Will you accept that the government continues to disregard the pleas from Saint Lucians to recommence work on the St. Jude Hospital project with no specific explanation of what the future of St. Jude Hospital will be?

Diabetes is one unfortunate plague that continues to haunt the people of Saint Lucia. The Saint Lucia Labour Party had been in process of finalising plans for the construction of a Diabetes Research Centre. In its vindictive manner, the UWP has abandoned the project.

Again, amidst all of these crises, the Minister for Health and Wellness seems absent, unaware or confused. There is no discernible or focussed political leadership in Saint Lucia’s health system.

The government simply does not show that it cares about our health system and our most vulnerable people.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party continues to demand that the government of the United Workers Party:

1. Place Saint Lucia’s health care concerns at the top of its priorities and have the Minister for Health respond to the many health care concerns of Saint Lucians;
2. Urgently recommence work on St. Jude Hospital and remove the patients and professionals from what is a disaster waiting at the George Odlum Stadium;
3. Give urgent attention to the critical needs of Victoria Hospital, St. Jude Hospital and Soufriere Hospital with a view to addressing immediate daily needs; and
4. Require that the Minister for Health give more focussed attention to the critical health sector.

All Saint Lucians will at some point need to face the health care system in Saint Lucia. We urge the Cabinet of Ministers to act urgently and stop the suffering of the people, in particular those who cannot afford to access private medical care or care overseas.

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