Saint Lucia’s health care system is in need of a prescription that would cure it of its malady or else its collapse is inevitable.
In fact, I will go as far as saying that given the nature and extent of our current problems within the health care system and the threat these problems pose to our lives, our future, and our country, that all Saint Lucians should now be demanding, to the point of being fanatical, complete transparency from the island’s Health Ministry, on the part of the government.
No longer can we remain indifferent to the problems which continue to affect all of us irrespective of the political party we support. The most vociferous supporter of the UWP administration who cannot afford medical treatment overseas is faced with the same problems in the health care system that the most vociferous detractor of the current administration faces.
What we need to steer our health care system out of the perilous waters it is sailing in is vision and conscience. One cannot go without the other.
The sitting administration has laid out plans, various plans, to move the health care sector forward, including plans for a national health care insurance, the soon to be sod turning ceremony for the completion of the St Jude Hospital (monies for which have already been sourced), the slowly but surely transitioning of services from Victoria Hospital to the Owen King European Union Hospital, and so forth and so forth.
The fact of the matter is, all of these things are still pending. The completion of St Jude Hospital and a national healthcare insurance plan are not things that can be completed this year or one year from now. Let’s not fool ourselves. But at least, the transitioning to OKEU Hospital can occur this year or within one year, meaning July 2020 if things go according to plan. Yet, we still have no date or timeline telling us when the Victoria Hospital, a health institution which for years has lacked the resources it needs to be fit to serve a nation, will be no more.
Let’s be forthright, the Allen Chastanet administration did not enter government in 2016 unaware of the problems in the country’s health care system. So versed was the administration with the problems that they convinced the majority of Saint Lucians in the June 2016 general election of their capability in doing a better job of fixing the problems than the incumbent at the time.
The administration (UWP), in is manifesto of 2016, devoted six pages to health care. Page 42 of said manifesto stated thus: “Saint Lucia’s present health care system is characterised by poor management of the Public Sector services and a lack of collaboration and synergy with Private Sector services, causing waste, duplication and inequity in access to health services. There is no coherent plan for the development of health services and for human resource development within health; an irrational financing approach and allocation of budgetary resources; a general poor quality of service; an absence of a functional health information system; and rampant inequities in the system. Most evidently, there is a crisis of leadership in health.”
To this day, the “crisis of leadership in health” remains ever present.
Reports from the south of the island show residents calling for renovations to wellness centres in their communities to be expedited so as to relieve them of inconveniences.
A report from our southern correspondent noted that last year the government had announced that as of December 10, 2018 the La Fargue, Mongouge, Saltibus and Vieux Fort Wellness Centres would be closed for retrofitting work under the SMART health facilities project. It was reported that those centres would be closed for two months in some cases, and six months in others. They are still closed. One resident of Roblot, Choiseul spoke to this reporter of going to the Etangs Wellness Centre in Soufriere to see a doctor, which only turned out to be an inconvenience considering the one in La Fargue is still not ready for business
Nurses are leaving the system on a weekly basis, as noted by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Felix St. Hill. And let’s not even talk about our stadium-hospital…
The current situation has left many in the medical profession disgruntled, as they are the ones who have to face the complaints daily from patients who witness first hand the inadequacies on a daily basis. At present, there seems to be a disconnect between the technocrats of the Ministry of Health and the people on the frontlines administering to the sick and dying in this country.
Unexpectedly over the last few weeks, I was forced to witness, and deal with many of the issues facing our health system first hand. Throughout a month-long vacation, I transported my brother on many occasions, at least twice a week, from home to the Victoria Hospital. I’ll just say this, it is one thing to write about these experiences, or to visit someone who is sick occasionally, and quite another to have to see someone you love at the mercy of a healthcare system that seems not to care who lives, and who dies. It is quite something else also, to hear the stories from people who feel let down by a system that who know has been failing for years, but continue to play the blame game instead of fixing the problems. It is our only hope, that this administration, and not the next one, or the one after, focuses on the problems that are most important to the livelihood of the people of this country, and it really is a matter of life and death.