The saga surrounding the St Jude Hospital Rehabilitation Project (SJHRP) took an interesting turn this week when Prime Minister Philip J Pierre disclosed that a committee, which reviewed the project, alleged wastage of funds in the execution of previous works undertaken at the site.
The disclosure was made Tuesday during a House of Assembly sitting at which legislators examined the report of the seven-member review committee.
Pierre also told reporters that same day that close to $200 million was wasted on the project.
The review committee was set up in 2021 and consisted of high-ranking professionals who outlined actionable and fiscally prudent options to complete the Project.
Pierre accused the former United Workers Party (UWP) administration that undertook rehabilitation works shortly after fire destroyed the building in 2019 of pursuing “political retribution” as they had stopped the project.
“So you allow the people of the country to suffer… because you did not want to follow up the mandate of the last government,” declared PM Pierre.
According to reports, expenditure for the SJH rehabilitation project accelerated from an initial $½ million-worth contract awarded in 2010, to an estimated $98 million evaluation by the end of 2016. In 2016, construction works were stopped for nearly three years and subsequently, the Phase I site along with procured material and equipment deteriorated.
By 2019, as the public debated and critiqued the project, construction works on the project site deviated from the Phase I trajectory. In addition, from 2019 to 2021 Phase II was erected at an estimated cost that exceeded $100 million.
It was further reported that the value of other buildings on the Phase I site stood at approximately $7million and were demolished to accommodate Phase II.
“They did not want the people of Saint Lucia to be in St Jude, only because St Jude was being constructed by the Government of the St Lucia Labour Party,” Pierre insinuated.
He said with several buildings being demolished and loads of money being “wasted away”, the onus is on the current administration.
“We are still trying to salvage part of it, but we have to throw it away …millions of dollars of equipment,” Pierre said.
Citing the recommendations proposed by the SJH review committee, he said, “The committee recommended that we should not continue work in the second phase …”
The review committee further claims that “abandoned works” on the project was salvageable. Furthermore, the transfer of operations from the George Odlum Stadium could have been facilitated at an earlier date.
Further dissecting the matter, PM Pierre continued, “They are pretending there was no money to complete the original St Jude Hospital, but …they spent $89.3 million (consisting of) a US$10 million loan, the same loan that we (SLP) took in October 2014, and a US$20 million in January 2020.”
“So they had US$30 million in cash available to complete the original St Jude,” Pierre said.
Currently, the first phase of the resumed SJH construction project is at an advanced stage and it is anticipated that the subsequent construction phases will address and correct design flaws and eventually bring the entire facility into practical completion.
Pierre added: “Every man and woman in this room (House of Assembly) and every man and woman of goodwill…our motive, our aim, our objective, which we will do (execute) at the soonest possibility is to move the people of Saint Lucia from the George Odlum Stadium and place them into proper conditions. That is our singular most important mission and vision.”
While other legislators provided an input into the matter, Social Affairs and Equity Minister Joachim Henry, a quantity surveyor by profession, made a technical scrutiny into construction works at the SJH site.
He said there was much to learn from the SJH project, “which will provide pertinent guidance for similar project undertakings…and that students pursuing studies in project management, construction management, civil engineering, quantity surveying and other related fields continue to investigate through educational research so that they can build on the body of knowledge associated with project implementation in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).”
While outlining several flaws in the construction methods implemented at the site, Henry declared, a task of such “value, importance, and emotional attachment” should have been managed by technical experts to avoid the excessive wastage of monies that has been expanded on the SJH project “from 2009 to 2016” and more.