Monday 16 July, 2018

SLP 'extremely disappointed' in govt's healthcare 'stunt'

The Saint Lucia Labour Party is extremely disappointed with the presentation of plans by the UWP Government on the future of the health care system in Saint Lucia.

The address to the nation on July 4th by the government was a poorly scripted Public Relations stunt void of content on the way forward to seriously resolving our healthcare crisis.

Nothing was said which made the citizens of Saint Lucia any wiser provided or comfort that the UWP Government is serious and ready to solve the health care crisis facing the nation.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party notes the following in an initial response to the comments by the Prime Minister.

1. In contrast to what the Prime Minister said, the decision to proceed with the reconstruction of the hospital on the existing site was made by the UWP government in August 2011 by the then Prime Minister Stephenson King. This is clearly shown in a document of the House tabled on 4th April, 2018 named “St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project Handover Report” Page 18.

2. In contrast to what the Prime Minister said, the UWP government was presented with several options for financing of the Health Sector in Saint Lucia. These were documented in a paper entitled “Development of a Sustainable Financing Mechanism for the Saint Lucia Health Sector” prepared by health experts and financed by the European Union. It is untrue to say a decision was taken by the Saint Lucia Labour Party government to increase NIC contributions.

3. The Saint Lucia Labour Party invited the then Opposition to work in a bi-partisan committee on Health Care financing. The UWP were non-cooperative.

4. The Prime Minister failed to explain how the proposed National Health Insurance be financed by his Administration. The Nation still awaits details.
5. The Prime Minister chose to ignore the fact that the Saint Lucia Labour had already begun the implementation of Universal Health Care with the provision of medication for diabetic and high blood pressure patients

6. In June 2016, the government was in possession of a complete inventory of the equipment available for St. Jude. It is as a result of their carelessness and inaction that they allowed two years to elapse and failed to make use of that equipment.

7. There is still no clarity on how the existing buildings on the St. Jude site will be utilized. What does the Prime Minister mean by “build a new wing using core facilities”? Does that mean that some buildings will be demolished or put to alternative use? Experts have opined that the East Wing on the site can be refurbished and occupied by February next year. The government is advised to follow that path and ensure that patients and workers are moved out of the George Odlum Stadium to a safe environment in the shortest possible time.

8. The present plans of the Government is to build a new wing which will be sized to accommodate the present staff and patients at the George Odlum Stadium and to abandon all the other buildings that have been constructed.
This decision is contrary even to the recommendations contained in their $ 1.0 Million Technical Audit which clearly stated that the facility should be complete. It is of note that the Terms of Reference for that technical audit consultancy stated that the Consultant was to provide a methodology to complete the hospital in one year. The following is an extract: “The preparation of all technical documentation required for the preparation of bidding and contract documentation to complete the project. This will include the methodology for completion of construction using a phased approach and for commissioning operation of the facility within 12 months.” How does one explain that a Government commissions a consultancy to develop a methodology to complete and commission the facility within 12 months, the Interim Report concluded that the facility should be completed and two years later that Government decides to abandon the facility? This is nothing short of recklessness and an insult to the people of Saint Lucia.

The government clearly has no clear pathway or cohesive plan to improve healthcare service delivery in an accessible and affordable way for Saint Lucians and visitors.
The idea that Private Public Partnership and unclear Joint Ventures are the solution to government’s lack of direction and political posturing is unacceptable.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party calls on the government to enter into meaningful dialogue with all partners including the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association so that the best solutions and most affordable and accessible outcomes can be found to solving the health crisis in Saint Lucia.

A detailed response with verifiable facts to the government’s pronouncements will be forthcoming. The Saint Lucia Labour Party will continue its consultation, dialogue and mobilization of Saint Lucians around the deepening healthcare crisis which had been made more confusing by the government’s pronouncements.