Monday 21 October, 2019

Healthcare sector embroiled in controversy

Controversy continues to swirl around the country’s healthcare system, particularly regarding the St. Jude and Owen King EU hospitals this week as Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, the Medical and Dental Association and the Saint Lucia Labour Party all spoke out on the topic.

It all began with the prime minister denying that the Cayman Islands group that was on island earlier had been demanding that government hand over to them the Owen King EU Hospital.

Chastanet said the group was here to hold talks with the government, look the hospital over and prepare a proposal to the government.

The group’s presence here sparked controversy and set social media platforms ablaze as reports emanating from WhatsApp primarily noted that the group was here to take over the hospital, criticizing in the process the recent transfers of outpatient services from Victoria to the new hospital.

The prime minister has since categorically denied the social media reports.

The Labour Party in a press conference yesterday said the country’s "health crisis was worsening by the day and by the minute while doctors continue to sound alarm bells.”

Moses ‘Musa’ Jn. Baptiste, the Labour Party spokesperson on health, called for the immediate resignation of the entire Board of Directors of St. Jude Hospital saying that members are with government in the way they are handling the hospital’s reconstruction.

“As (SLP) spokesperson for health, the entire board, I believe, should resign and allow for clear thinking, fresh minds to urge the government to continue the St Jude reconstruction project,” Jn. Baptiste said.

President of the St. Lucia Medical and Dental Association, Dr. Alphonsus St. Rose this week called on the government to treat the St. Jude Hospital reconstruction project as a matter of priority and to commence work without further delay. Government has stopped work on the hospital for the past year and is studying the findings of a technical audit of the hospital and is looking forward to the completion of a financial audit.

St. Rose believes that the hospital can be completed within months and not years as the government had been projecting.

“We have only recently learnt once more via the media, of what the government’s intentions on healthcare are. Our analysis has indicated from all accounts, that the St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project (SJHRP) can be completed at a cost phenomenally less than it would take to build a new facility and in much less time (six to ten months),” he said.

He then outlined several preliminary recommendations he believes the government should heed if it is serious about the hospital. The recommendations are as follows:

  • Completion of the SJHRP is to be done in a phased manner and completed by no later than February 2019.
  • That in order to alleviate the horrible conditions at George Odlum National Stadium (GONS) priority must be given to completing the East (medical) Wing at the SJHRP which can house all critical departments presently operational at GONS.
  • That all agreements be done with full advance disclosure and transparency; that only highly specialized and technologically advanced services not already available on island be outsourced.
  • SLMDA strongly advocates that both OKEU and SJH remaining public for the benefit of all citizens.
  • That the OKEU board be established soonest (within one month) to conform to the legal requirements established in the MHMC Act of 2015.
  • That the NIC be considered as the principal provider of the proposed National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). SLMDA is willing to assist in shaping this initiative alongside the government and other stakeholders.
  • SLMDA would like to call on the government to engage all stakeholders and the public on these healthcare matters at the earliest in an honest, objective and transparent manner as promised by the Prime Minister.
  • The delivery of quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services to all citizens is a fundamental responsibility of every government. But the framework required to support our national healthcare system is grossly inadequate and broken. As such the government must now assume full responsibility for healthcare and it is the public’s expectation that they fix it, responsibly, quickly and properly.

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