Those In Charge Of Health Care Do Not Care

By Claude A. Paul, General Secretary, Civil Service Association
img: Aerial view of the medical complex near the Millennium Highway with OKEU Hospital at the forefront.

PRESS RELEASE – On Behalf of the Executive and members of the Saint Lucia Civil Service Association, I wish to call on our government, in particular the Minister of Health and senior officials of the Ministry to take immediate steps to address the situation with our health facilities in the country.

St. Jude’s Hospital

It is both shameful and disgraceful that after nearly ten years, the situation with St. Jude’s remains unresolved while successive administrations level blame at each other. The use of the George Odlum Stadium as a temporary hospital is no longer acceptable, as the facility has been deemed unfit for this purpose and the quality of health care services continues to deteriorate. A report from the Ministry of Labour has highlighted numerous occupational safety and health violations which would have forced the closure of any private institution. The Government is therefore breaking the law of the land and continues to ignore the recommendation of the officials of the Ministry of Labour. More importantly though, there is no empathy for the doctors, nurses and support staff who must work in those torrid conditions.

Victoria Hospital

The situation at Victoria Hospital is equally challenging for our members.  At the last count there were over 300 instances of health and safety violations and of course no action has been taken because of the plans to transition to the OKEU. VH is falling apart while we have a brand-new hospital virtually next door and which remains unoccupied for the most part. Our understanding is that the maintenance cost of running VH is extremely high and government is forced to take draconian measures such as reducing the number of sessional nurses. How much longer must we wait before something is done to bring relief to the staff and patients who have to endure those conditions day after day?

We also have similar concerns with air quality and other occupational safety and health hazards at the Gros Islet Polyclinic. The situation was allowed to escalate into a crisis before some hurried action was taken to address it over the weekend.

The conclusion is clear. Those in charge of health care do not care.

OKEU Hospital

On the matter of the privatization of the OKEU, we recognise that while the usual voices have gone quiet, negotiations are continuing in the background.

The Board has been appointed and yet there are no consultations with the trade unions on the way forward. The inclusion of the NWU on the board is not a substitute for proper and meaningful dialogue with the unions and staff associations who are the legitimate representatives of the doctors, nurses and other support staff.

We therefore remain concerned about the following:

  • The transfer or secondment of public officers to the OKEU and the preservation of the pensionable status and other benefits as provided for in the Millennium Height Medical Complex Act. No official word or announcement has been made by those in authority and persons are left to speculate about their future.
  • The absence of meaningful consultation of the transition process, the financing mechanisms and the privatization of our hospital. Government continues to ignore our calls for inclusion in this process while making secret deals with private investors. We demand greater transparency in this very important public matter.

The CSA will continue to pay close attention to the developments with OKEU and will not tolerate any attempt to use this process to marginalise or victimise workers.

We will use every legitimate means possible to defend the rights of our members and all other workers in the country.

In conclusion: We urge Government to preserve the welfare of our members and health workers; we encourage Government to Put People Before Profit, and we reject the notion of privatising healthcare in the country.

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