(PRESS RELEASE) – Emotions ran high as the Government of Saint Lucia officially opened the Dialysis Unit at the Owen King-EU Hospital on the morning of Wednesday January 24th 2018.
Training for nurses at the new Unit commenced recently and the Unit will replace the services being offered at the Victoria Hospital with high end fully functional machines.
Medical officials, staff of the Victoria Hospital and patients were on hand at the opening to express their happiness at finally seeing the centre open. Minister for Health and Wellness, Senator Honourable Mary Isaac, stated that it had been a difficult road to get to this point.
“I am very emotional about this because I know the stress and the struggle that has come behind what we are seeing happening here today,” stated Minister Isaac. “I also know about the efforts created not to allow it to happen although we all recognize that we are dealing with human lives.”
An impassioned speech was also given by Nephrologist Dr. Merle Clarke who spoke of the resiliency and dedication of the staff and patients of the previous unit at the Victoria Hospital.
“The fact that we have been able to operate out of the old unit at Victoria Hospital for the past few years is nothing short of miraculous,” she said. “It is testimony to the dedication and sacrifices of staff and patients and the resilience of everybody.”
Dr. Clarke gave personal stories of staff and patients. The audience at the ceremony also got a chance to hear from patients, one of whom recalled: “For somebody to come on dialysis, someone like me has to die and that is the reality.”
Prime Minister Honourable Allen Chastanet was also emotional at the opening stating that this was an important milestone in the history of Saint Lucia.
“We were being told that you can’t open up the dialysis centre unless you open up the whole hospital. I said, why? . . . The people of this country need the dialysis lab to be opened now.”
After working on the issue for some time, the Prime Minister noted that it was heartening to see it finally come to fruition. He also spoke generally about plans to open the entire hospital.
“We have decided to open up the hospital in phases and continue to work on long term financing to support the health sector,” stated Prime Minister Chastanet explaining that the Government plan is to eventually have a national health insurance programme.
“That insurance would be available to all Saint Lucians. So the idea that people are afraid to come to doctors or hospitals because they simply could not afford it would be a thing of the past. We want every single Saint Lucian to have access to healthcare; that is what is important. We can’t pat ourselves on the shoulder because we have improved services to some. It has to be a system in which we provide it to every single Saint Lucian.”
Prime Minister Chastanet spoke about coverage for the unemployed, persons below the poverty line and elderly and ways to generate a revenue stream for the hospital.
“We have to change our healthcare system,” said PM Chastanet. “We are absolutely committed to making that happen . . . Today symbolises a new beginning to improve the quality of health care.”
The Prime Minister ended by thanking the nurses and doctors for the countless hours they put in. He also congratulated the Minister and Health and the staff at the department on the achievement.
Seventeen new nurses were hired to oversee the twelve newly installed dialysis machines at the OK-EU hospital. The Prime Minister said that there are also plans to open the Radiology unit.