St Jude Hospital Reconstruction: Completion? Or Another Merry-Go-Round?

ANOTHER source of revenue has opened up for the St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project a loan agreement between the Government of Saint Lucia and the Government of Saudi Arabia.

The hospital, since its destruction by fire on 9 September, 2009 has been the recipient of several streams of revenue, which, when totaled, according to sources on both sides of the political divide, comes close to EC$ 300 million.

Now that’s a lot of money, even for the construction of a hospital. That amount of money could have built a state-of-the art hospital as well as a number of wellness centers around the Island, all furnished with the necessary modern-day medical equipment.

The fact that we have spent all that money over 13 years and 11 months, yet are unable to complete St Jude Hospital borders on the  criminal and must be the subject of a commission of enquiry. Such an enquiry would have two aims – a determination of responsibility for the colossal waste of money, and, to ensure the same mistakes are never again made in the fulfilment of governmental responsibility for infrastructural development. This type of management of the country’s healthcare infrastructure over that period of time cannot be forgiven. We cannot allow persons who had overall stewardship of that important infrastructure of the country to get away with such abuse  of the trust given to them by the people.

Primary healthcare is one of the few basic things a government must provide for its people. To accept the truth of this statement, one must first understand that primary healthcare is rooted in a commitment to social justice, equity, solidarity and participation. It is based on the recognition that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction (WHO).

It goes without saying, therefore, that to attain the highest standard of health, which is a right of every Saint Lucian, they must have access to a hospital. Prior to its destruction St Jude Hospital was the hospital of choice and convenience for thousands of Saint Lucians in the southern part of the island.

There is no denying that St Jude Hospital, before the fire of 2009, was an important pillar of the southern community. Despite what it is today, it is still one of the pillars that form the infrastructural entitlement of our people.

Reconstruction of St. Jude started with the UWP, which formed the government at the time of the fire in 2009.  This was followed by five years of the then Labour Government which was itself followed by five years of a UWP government to be followed yet again by our current Labour government. Today, almost a quarter of a century later, we still do not have a reconstructed St. Jude Hospital. To put this in context, the Panama Canal, one of the largest ever infrastructural projects ever undertaken, took 10 years to build – significantly less than half the time we have spent on an unfinished St. Jude!

While the hope today is that St Jude will be completed during this SLP’s term in office, sadly, Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre has made no categorical statement to that effect. Neither has he said how much out of the US$75 million Saudi loan will go towards the hospital reconstruction, since he said that that money is both for the hospital and the refurbishment of the George Odlum Stadium, which now houses the main medical facility servicing the south of the island.

So, we wait, wondering whether this time we will get a complete hospital or, maybe, yet another round of musical chairs, or is it a merry-go-round?

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