Letters & Opinion

‘Nou Fashay’ about the state of healthcare under the UWP!

By Stephen L. Prescot

ARTICLE 25 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”

As a member-state, we must therefore consider our people’s health to be one of our most basic and essential national assets. Ill health can keep us away from school or work, from attending to family responsibilities or participating in community activities — in the end affecting the very development of our country.

Kudos are in order for our health professionals who continue to do their best despite the several challenges.

UWP Leader Allen Chastanet repeatedly indicated he was very “fashay” (totally vex) on the campaign trail because the Labour Administration had not opened the St Jude and the Owen King EU hospitals.

However, given his administration’s promise to transform healthcare, after 21 months, it is indeed totally unacceptable that absolutely no progress has been seen in our national healthcare system.

The current worsening financial situation that Chastanet has created does NOT AT ALL absolve the government from having to take action to ensure our nation’s right to health.

It was this Prime Minister who won elections after having campaigned with promises that good quality health services, goods and facilities would be available to the people of St Lucia. He therefore can’t justify his failure to respect our health obligations because of a lack of resources.

The continued dishonesty of this Administration is totally disgusting. As soon as this government took office, they suspended all works on the St Jude hospital, with all kinds of ridiculous statements, allegations and excuses.

And what is even worse, at the time of the suspension of works in August 2016, St Jude Hospital was less than eight months away from completion, with an estimated completion date of February 2017.

To add insult to injury, the Allen Chastanet Government took close to one million dollars from the treasury to pay for a Technical Audit of St Jude via direct award to FDL. Yet, although they expected FDL to give them ammunition to terminate the project, none was forthcoming.

In fact, contrary to Guy Joseph’s untruths, nowhere in that over 300 page document is there any recommendation to demolish the new structure. Yet, despite all the lies and manipulations of this Administration there is no clear rationale why work at St Jude remains suspended to this day.

That St Jude’s Hospital is still being housed at the stadium with the same falling roof and leaking walls while the UWP Administration refuses to continue the reconstruction works, is abhorrent and detestable.

From my recollection, work on St Jude commenced in August 2010, the Stephenson King led Government engaged the Taiwanese Government for assistance and they provided a grant of US $ 3.2 million (EC $8.9 million) for the reconstruction of a 32-bed surgical wing and a master plan for the entire site.

By August 2011, the UWP Government had decided to expand the scope of works to include the renovation of approximately 100,000 square feet of building space.

As such, by election time in November 2011, the UWP Government had issued at least six contracts totaling over $39 million although all the requisite funding was yet to be secured.

The project evolved from a renovation to a full-scale redevelopment. However, planning approvals were not sought under the UWP Government prior to the commencement of construction, which illustrates the haste with which this process was undertaken.

When the SLP Government came to office in December 2011, they maintained all arrangements with respect to the St. Jude hospital, including the contractor, project management unit and the consultant. By then, over $33 million had already been expended on the hospital, primarily on civil works.

These changes which commenced under the UWP Government were further augmented under the SLP Government.

According to the UWP-commissioned FDL Audit Report: “ At the time of reporting, the value of works and supplies contracts awarded for SJHRP was Eastern Caribbean, One Hundred and Eighteen Million, One Hundred and Nine Thousand, One Hundred and Seventy-Seven dollars and eighteen Cents (EC$118,109,177.18). These contracts were awarded over a period spanning August 2010 to September 2014.”

According to my information, approximately EC$140.1 million had been raised for the St Jude Hospital to date. So, the question is: why then has work not resumed, given that the money was available when UWP came into office? Why is there this stubborn determination to demolish the hospital and to rebuild at a new site? Imagine the additional pain and suffering which the people of the south will have to endure while the UWP continues to play political football with the hospital.

Despite all the venting of the UWP Administration, the hospital remains closed with the commissioning onlyof the morgue a few months ago.

Where is the conscience of Mary Isaac as our southern communities continue to suffer in these inhumane conditions at the stadium?

The new Board of St Jude, appointed by this Administration, the permanent secretary and other technical officers, all continue to urge that good sense prevail by Guy Joseph and Allen Chastanet on the reopening of St Jude, but to no avail.

Do these two men care about the cost implications for St Lucians when basic health services are not available on island?

Why is this Prime Minister not “fashay” anymore?

If he isn’t, we as citizens should be raging mad…especially noting all the fundraising that we did to ensure that St Jude would be back up and running.

And not to mention the millions of tax dollars from donors who have supported both St Jude and the Owen King EU Hospital.

Recently, the Government announced the training of 17 nurses in preparation for commissioning of the dialysis unit at the Owen King EU hospital and went even so far as to host a launch of the opening of the Unit with the “crying PM” as the headliner.

While this is commendable, patients and their relatives are asking the Prime Minister when the rest of the services at the OKEU hospital will be functional? Those who are cursed with kidney issues understand the necessity to have the other parallel functions of the hospital working simultaneously, like the emergency services and the pharmacy.

Allen Chastanet needs to stop fooling St. Lucians. Even those of his 43% preschoolers know there is a difference in making a hospital a statutory corporation versus privatization of the hospital. The owner of a statutory corporation will be the Government of St. Lucia and by extension the people of the country. Has the UWP even considered the negative implications for our less fortunate citizens of privatizing our biggest general hospital? Where does this reckless and heartless attitude stop?

Can the Prime Minister provide a time frame for the full commissioning of the OKEU hospital?

People are asking, why did the PM disband the commissioning team?

Can the Prime Minister be more transparent about his privatization of OKEU based on the notion that this Government thinks healthcare is too costly for them?

Can the Prime Minister advise on the status/location of all the equipment that has been purchased for these hospitals?

Questions, Questions, Questions for the Prime Minister and his Health Minister… We want… deserve and demand answers… and we don’t want to hear about more investigations. St Lucians would like to know when the hospitals will be completed and commissioned?

The bottom line is that the UWP and Allen Chastanet were elected to get it done – so, the citizenry has the right to demand answers!

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