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Saint Lucia’s Primary and Secondary Healthcare Services to be Upgraded

By Reginald Andrew
Health and Wellness Minister Moses “Musa” Jn Baptiste
Health and Wellness Minister Moses “Musa” Jn Baptiste

Health and Wellness Minister Moses “Musa” Jn. Baptiste has stated that government is working assiduously to provide optimum healthcare services on the island.

His comments came amid public concerns of the tardiness and stress that patients at the OKEU Accident and Emergency (A & E Unit ) Department have to undergo. This matter does not affect patients solely,  but also the nurses and doctors on duty who have to deal with a myriad of cases for treatment, some minor others major.

In some instances, patients admitted to the A&E,  have to wait for at least four to five hours or more to get the basic tests done. And to some patients and their families, it appears like an eternity in the waiting area, before they can be treated.

Jn Baptiste noted that in the leadup to setting up operations at the OKEU Hospital, the previous administration severely compromised  the provision of beds to the facility.

“The situation at the Owen King EU Hospital is one that has a history,” Jn. Baptiste told reporters, Monday, at a media briefing.

Front view of OKEU Hospital
Front view of OKEU Hospital

The health minister recalls that, “The history with the Owen King EU Hospital is an interesting one. We were supposed to have had ‘five fingers’…but a particular government decided that they would not do (operate with) this additional finger.”

He added, “So, we are missing a part of the original Owen King EU Hospital, which means that we do not have the original number of beds that were planned for a facility like this.”

Jn. Baptiste said the OKEU Hospital has to facilitate treatment for patients from the surrounding areas of Castries and the Gros Islet Polyclinic , in addition the facility also serves the entire country.

He noted that it is a challenge to accommodate the intake from the north, which has the largest population. Speaking to the challenge, the minister added, This challenge,  especially at  night, when health centres in the Castries are closed. So, if someone has a busted toe or something like that, they would run to the casualty department whereas the Gros Islet Polyclinic opens until midnight, and these are the challenges.”

To address the matter, Jn. Baptiste said, government assured that the Millennium Heights Medical Complex had a board in place “that can look at these issues and to deal with them and the board has taken this on and dealt with it.”

In an effort to work out more viable services, he said, a section of the Victoria Hospital was transformed into a “fully refurbished” secondary care unit. The minister explained that, in time, the facility would be provided with “an additional 42 beds, which would free up space at Owen King EU Hospital.”

Jn. Baptiste adds that certain patients can then be removed to the second care unit to be treated. He noted that there have been some upgrades and wonderful experiments in digital health to  improve the quality of service offered at the Victoria Hospital, whereby patients get to utilise their individual tablets and communicate with the staff , and with the pharmacy at hand.

The minister said another strategy to deal with the numbers at the A&E department will involve extending the operating hours at the Polyclinic and to remove the Castries Wellness Centre from its current location, on Chaussee Road, and relocate it to the Victoria Hospital.

“And we are going to have a Castries Urban Polyclinic, which hopefully will (remain) open for 24 hours,” he declared. “This will mean that there are cases which should not go to the Owen King EU Hospital. Because the Owen King EU Hospital should really be dealing with the more serious cases.”

Jn. Baptiste stressed that with the island’s healthcare services having to deal with accidents, injuries from violence and so on and individuals go to the Owen King EU Hospital when these emergencies arise.

To deal with this matter, the minister said, “we have to ensure that we have longer opening hours at the primary care facilities, and we are working on that, we  almost completed  the refurbishment of the A&E department at the Victoria Hospital and we are going to move the Castries Health Centre to the Victoria Hospital site, and we’re going to have less pressure at the Owen King EU Hospital.”

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