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(CMC) – The Dominica government Monday sought to downplay the possibility of a diplomatic rift with the presence here of two medical ships from the United States and China.
Health Minister Dr. Kenneth Darroux told a news conference that the US-based “Pacific Hope”, which is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Faith based organisation had had been here since April.
“As you know we are a country, small, piece of rock, but still we have rules and regulations especially as it pertains to medical services.
“This is a very sensitive area and we have the Dominica Medical Act in place…,” he said, adding that in the case of the Pacific Hope the first set of medical services that were offered went through without a hitch.
“They did provide us with the list of medical personnel…we are talking about some months ago and so they would have returned,” he said, noting that the ship had gone to the Bahamas for dry dock services.
He said the ship returned with a fresh crew of doctors, insisting that there is no controversy to temporary stop the services being provided by the Pacific Hope, but that the necessary licences need to be approved.
“The Ministry of Health wasn’t aware that any services were being done or even procedures were being done until a flyer released by them was being circulated in the public and it was brought to our attention,” he told reporters.
“Like any good administrators, we did get in contact with the captain and his crew to let them know that we were not aware that a new set of services were being offered and especially ophthalmology surgeries.”
An official from the ship said had said recently on a local radio programme that the government had ordered them to stop administering medical services on the ship and if they refused they would be arrested.
The statement led to persons taking to social media to indicate that the issue was related to a Chinese Navy Medical Ship, the Peace Ark, which is presently docked here.
But Darroux, said the Ministry of Health has not received a list of the personnel on board the ship, while medical interventions were taking place on board.
He said that the authorities have asked the Pacific Hope to stop operations “until we get this rectified.
“It is as simple as that,” he said, adding that “it is really amazing how after having been in our water for six months…. (the presence) of the Pacific Hope becomes a political issue.
“This happened at a time when the Chinese ship was on its way…and it was just coincidence and of course all of this nonsense about the Chinese and the Americans…”Darroux said.
Last weekend, Darroux described the arrival of the Chinese Navy Hospital Ship as a new milestone in the bilateral bond between the two countries.
He said the described relationnship between the two countries as ‘mutually respectful relationship over the years’, noting that it has yielded tremendous assistance in the form of technical cooperation for medical services, provision of medical equipment, road networks, schools, bridges, stadiums, the construction of a new national hospital and most importantly assisting us in building capacity and development of our human resource.
“Today however the arrival of the Peace Ark to our shores is yet another manifestation of this extraordinary friendship and takes the deep and strong relationship between the countries to a whole new level and marks a new milestone in the two countries bilateral bond,” Darroux said.