Due to the national relevance of the current discussion on healthcare and in particular as it relates to the St Jude and Owen King EU Hospitals, I have chosen to dedicate this week’s column to highlight a statement made earlier this week by Hon Moses Jn. Baptiste.
Stephen Lester Prescott
Statement by Hon Moses Jn Baptiste
Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Fort North, SLP Chairman & SLP Spokesman for Health, Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Production at the SLP Press Conference of April 25th, 2018
THE Minister for Health Sen. Mary Isaac confirmed on Timothy Poleon’s Newsmaker Live on Wednesday April 18, 2018, that the government has taken a decision on the comatose St. Jude Hospital project.
In the latest episode of contradictory pronouncements from the UWP Government, Sen. Mary Isaac stated, I quote: “that is the position of the government at this point in time…to build a new hospital, right next to St. Jude…on the other side…because there is space there…and I hear people talking about building it all over the world and whatever… Just on the other side of [the] road because there is a lot of land on that side of the road. We don’t want to destroy the structure that they’ve already started… [we will] complete that structure… build it into a medical school” unquote.
We condemn this plan and continue to appeal to the government to do what is right for the people of the south and indeed for the country. We call on the government to give priority to the health needs of the people and cease playing games with the St. Jude Hospital Rehabilitation project.
If they will not heed the call of the Opposition, at least be sensitive to the following grave concerns expressed by the St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) and again I quote: “These deplorable circumstances in which we are expected to deliver healthcare services to the public accounts for the poor quality of our healthcare delivery outcomes and increasing numbers of unwarranted deaths, all continuing to spiral out of control.” Unquote. These are the words of medical professionals. How long will it be before a friend or member of your family becomes victim to those circumstances?
The UWP’s excuse is that the Labour Government did not complete the hospital after four and a half (4.5) years in office. True the hospital was not completed…but at no time did we stop the hospital to play games. We kept seeking money to put into the completion. Work was never stopped on the hospital. That is how responsible governments operate. In two months’ time it will be two years since this government has been in office. It will also be two years of the government doing nothing about bringing the hospital to completion. Nothing, except making contradictory and threatening statements.
In his budget presentation, mere weeks ago, the Prime Minister indicated that there was no decision on St. Jude. Just prior to the PM’s statement Guy Joseph, Minister for Economic affairs indicated that there will be a new hospital constructed and cited in an area next to the Heineken Brewery., Then there are statements that were made by that same Minister for Economic affairs earlier that indicated a possible six-month completion period for the St.
Jude hospital project. At last Wednesday interview on Timothy Poleon’s programme, Minister Mary Isaac said it will take about two (2) years. While this confusion continues, people’s lives are being placed in jeopardy.
No reference has been made by the government to the Hand Over Report (St. Jude Reconstruction Project Handover Report). For example,
1) The report states on page 15 that $98, 451,346.85 was spent up to July 31 2016. Not the $170 Million stated by the Minister.
2) Page 18 states the Issues, Challenges and Constraints including change in policy direction in August 2011 (while UWP was in office). Financing challenges and the steps taken to resolve the challenges
3) Page 21 states that the Consultant ‘Halcrow Group Ltd’ also collaborated with Accreditation Canada to support the architectural reviews to feed into the hospital layout and final designs.
4) Page 23 refers to the Accreditation Process Initiation where a decision was taken to work with Accreditation Canada once the hospital transfer had taken place.
5) Page 26 refers to Outstanding Issues for Action
There is a clear pattern of misinformation by the government and its our considered opinion that it is a deliberate attempt to confuse Saint Lucians.
The decision to put the St Jude and the Owen King EU Hospitals into the ownership of foreign owned private companies follows a pattern of behavior in which foreigners for profit and close friends of the government are sought out for the ownership of our public health assets and institutions. This behavior is both distasteful and arrogant and creates the platform for corruption. There has been no announcement of competitive bidding for the management of the Owen King EU Hospital. The government only responded to the questions about privatization of OKEU after the exposure of irrefutable information by the Leader of the Opposition.
The government continues to ignore all advice, even that of our medical professionals and qualified engineers on the continuation of St. Jude; instead surrogates of the government are being allowed to visit the hospital site and to provide uninformed commentary on the physical and technical structures in the hospital.
This United Workers Party government has now turned our St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project into a mockery for their purposes of benefiting foreign friends. The Health Minister now refers to the St.Jude hospital as “that thing” She repeated this several times in her interview with Timothy Poleon. Ministers of Government continuously announce different decisions on the fate of the project.
Our Party had one intention and one intention only; it was to complete the St. Jude Hospital and to return the patients, staff and Saint Lucian management to the Hospital at Augier. Although there were regrettable delays, due to lack of financing, we stayed the course through difficult years.
The UWP government must stop the deliberate attempts to hand over our hospitals to foreigners. We join with the voice of all Saint Lucians asking for good sense to prevail.