The Government of Saint Lucia notes the concerns raised by the United Workers Party on the impact of the Value Added Tax on the Saint Jude’s Hospital.
Firstly, it is commendable that the Opposition, after several years of neglect while in office, has recognized the importance of the general health of the people of Vieux-Fort and its environs.
Perhaps, if that level of interest was shown while the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, the people of Vieux-Fort, Laborie, Choiseul and the hard working staff of the Saint Jude’s Hospital would be enjoying the benefits of a brand new hospital, furnished with state of the art equipment to meet the health demands of the population of the south. Perhaps too, the people of the south would not have faced the challenge on some occasions to purchase drugs while they were patients at the hospital.
Secondly, the Government wishes to dispel the misinformation communicated via the October 16, 2012 Press Release issued by the United Workers Party, claiming that “…St Jude Hospital has been forced to pay in excess of EC $25, 000.00 since the imposition of VAT for the importation of supplies…”. The truth is, since the implementation of VAT, Saint Jude’s Hospital has paid approximately $19, 000.00, a portion of which will be refunded as agreed by the Ministry of Finance and communicated to the management of the Saint Jude’s Hospital. The UWP should try to get it right factually and otherwise.
The Opposition is very much aware that Saint Jude’s Hospital is a Statutory Corporation owned by the Government of Saint Lucia. When VAT is paid to the Government, it is not a situation where “the viability of the Hospital and access to Health care” are threatened as ultimately, the Government of Saint Lucia bears the financial responsibility for the operations of the hospital.
It is true that citizens are required to pay for the services offered by St Jude but the cost of operating the hospital is largely that of the Government of Saint Lucia. The VAT Implementation Unit, Ministry of Health and the Customs Department are in constant dialogue to assist our public medical facilities in adjusting to the implications of VAT.
Government has repeatedly indicated that it is willing to meet with all aggrieved or concerned parties on matters relating to VAT and its impact during this initial implementation phase. It is regrettable that UWP refused an offer by the Prime Minister to sit on a joint parliamentary committee to oversee the implementation of VAT for its narrow partisan and selfish interests despite the fact that it championed the introduction of VAT while in office.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Kenny D. Anthony again commends the general public on the handling of the transition phase of the VAT and assures Saint Lucians that the Government will continue to do all in its power to protect all citizens against any unfair effects of the VAT.