Saturday 31 October, 2020

EU official gives OKEU hospital failing grade, calls for quick action

European Union Commission's Director-General for International Cooperation and Development Stefano Manservisi and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

European Union Commission's Director-General for International Cooperation and Development Stefano Manservisi and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

More than a decade after providing Saint Lucia with 45 million euros to build a new hospital the European Union wants to know why it is not yet fully functional

EU officials visited the Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital over the weekend seeking answers.

The team, which met with Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Health Minister Mary Isaac and other officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness last Saturday, had flown in from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where members toured European Union-funded projects in that country. They left the following day for Trinidad and Tobago.

Heading the team from the European Union Commission was Stefano Manservisi, the European Union Commission's Director-General for International Cooperation and Development. With him were European Union Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean Daniela Tramacere, head of the European Union regional operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, Felice Zaccheo and others.

The group had a walk-through of the hospital before settling down behind closed doors for in-depth discussions on the hospital and a new framework of the relationship between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Just before the closed-door session, Manservisi told reporters that the European Union wants the government to get the hospital fully functional at the soonest in the interest of all Saint Lucians.

“Let’s be frank, this is one of the biggest investments the European Union has had over the years. This is a flagship that must work,” Manservisi said of the hospital.

He said the European Union will not get involved in how the hospital is operated but it is disappointing not seeing it fully functional.

“My point is not to look backwards but to sit with the prime minister and see how this can start working in the interest of the people of Saint Lucia,” Manservisi said.

When asked by a reporter how satisfied he was with the hospital on a scale of one to ten Manservisi said two simply because the dialysis and the physiotherapy sections were the only sections in operation at the hospital.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet gave reasons why the hospital is not fully functional at this time, explaining that about eight or nine months ago the air conditioning system broke down forcing government to get it fixed.

“We had to get it fixed. The company that was being used no longer existed so we found a new company that bought over the old company and that company now has agreed to help us put in a new system,” the prime minister stated.

He said other departments from Victoria Hospital were moving into the OKEU but that had to stop due to the failure of electrical breakers. He said there were still lots of unknowns to be dealt with before total transition to the OKEU Hospital is possible.

The prime minister admitted that getting health care accessible to all Saint Lucians was a problem but that a health care insurance plan soon to be introduced by the government may solve that problem.

 “The system we are looking at is a system where the government will continue to pay the salaries of nurses and doctors, provide utility cost and do all the capital investment. The insurance premium would be to cover the doctor visits, prescriptions and operations. Once we are able to achieve that that would be a remarkable step in terms of taking the country to the next level,” the prime minister said.

He believes that Cayman Health City, one of several groups’ government has had discussions with regarding a culture of operation for the OKEU Hospital is the better of them all to do business with.

The prime minister is of the view that should a contract be given to Cayman Health City, it would not only put in place an operational structure but assist government in interviewing the people transferring over from Victoria Hospital and even train those people in case of any shortcomings.

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