COULD a political cloud be hovering over the move by government to commission the dialysis unit at the Owen King-EU Hospital (OKEUH) in the absence of the hospital’s opening?
The St. Lucia Labour Party on Thursday had some questions for the government regarding the latter’s decision to commission the dialysis unit at the OKEU Hospital.
Whether the questions were on target or simply mischievous depends on the side of the political fence one sits. However, the party’s political leader, Philip J. Pierre, and Moses Jn. Baptiste, the party’s spokesman on health, claimed that the questions were relevant.
The duo claimed that while government seems intent on getting the unit operational, that government is not working assiduously to get support services in place should something occur while the machines are in use.
Pierre and Jn. Baptiste explained that should the dozen dialysis machines become operational, they would feel uncomfortable if they were told afterwards by medical professionals that they were not set up to best medical practices.
“What is oaky with me is best practice in medicine,” Jn. Baptiste said, questioning whether the machines could be operated on their own in a facility without ancilliary medical services.
Government, for some time now, has been talking about making the more efficient dialysis machines at the OKEU Hospital operational to assist those at Victoria Hospital which are aging and are soon to be decommissioned.
Another reason for government putting the new machines in use as quickly as possible is to save lives as more and more St. Lucians find themselves in need of the machines. The waiting list of people in need of dialysis has been growing longer for years now.
The government was unable to open the OKEU Hospital at the end of last month, despite that timeline being hinted at by Health Minister, Mary Isaac, and Ministry of Health personnel at a press conference held last year.
Government has yet to give a definitive date for the opening of the hospital, although Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and other government officials have been speaking of a soft opening or partial opening very soon.
In fact, a statement issued last week by the Ministry of Health spoke of plans well-advanced for the commissioning of the dialysis unit at the hospital and that 17 new nurses were hired for the unit. Those nurses are now being trained on the various pieces of equipment in preparation for the commissioning.
The machines are already installed and calibrated by their suppliers and installers. The only thing needed now are people to begin using them.
Jn. Baptiste is now pressuring government on its stance on the machines, asking whether the Prime Minister who, during his campaign for office, promised to lead a march on the hospital to get dialysis machines working, had forgotten to change things for the better.
“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?” Jn. Baptiste said.
He added: “This is the same party now in government, which claimed that people were dying because of the 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?” Jn. Baptiste asked.
According to Jn. Baptiste, “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.”