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Saint Lucia opposition says it will reverse privatisation of EU-funded hospital

By Melanius Alphonse, Caribbean News Now associate editor

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Owen King European Union (OKEU) Hospital

(CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW) — The opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) says that, when it is returned to power in Saint Lucia, it will seek to undo any arrangement entered into by the current United Workers Party (UWP) government that seeks to privatise the Owen King EU (OKEU) hospital, which was funded by the European Union.

The current government has reportedly been discussing the privatisation of the OKEU hospital with several interested parties, and is specifically in final negotiations with Health City Cayman to take over the management and operations of the hospital.

Construction of the OKEU commenced in 2005, during the 2001-2006 SLP administration. However, the hospital was not completed during the subsequent UWP five-year term of office from 2006-2011, despite the fact that European Union funding was available.

Following the SLP’s return to office in 2011, all major construction work had been completed by February 2016 and ancillary works were in progress. All equipment had been procured and expected to be installed, commissioned and training completed by September 2016.

However, for reasons that remain obscure, when the UWP returned to power in June 2016 under new Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, work on the OKEU was once again halted.

Dr Stephen King signed a three-year contract with government in June 2016, under which he was tasked to help develop ways to modernise and improve the health sector. However, the UWP government opted to end that agreement just one year later.

While the SLP has asserted that the gift of a hospital from the European Union was never meant to be privatised, Chastanet’s political attaché said last week that, even though there has been much talk about privatisation, “there has been nothing definitive about the system of management for the OKEU hospital”.

“There have been many pronouncements about the way forward for the government whether it’s a PPP, privatisation or whatever. According to the information that has been put out by the government, consultations and discussions on the way forward are still not final,” Norbert Williams said.

“There is no legislation, there is no final answer on how the OKEU hospital is going to be managed,” he also asserted, apparently oblivious to the existence of the Millennium Heights Medical Complex Act, passed by the former SLP government, which provides a comprehensive framework for the operation of the new hospital, including protections for the current staff at Victoria Hospital.

A report that Health City Cayman, the private sector entity planning to take over the OKEU hospital, has insisted that all public sector healthcare employees be terminated so that the new management company can decide who to rehire or otherwise, has also generated its own controversy.

Chastanet has, however, denied that any employees will lose their jobs.

He nevertheless had to back down from a similar proposal in relation to the proposed creation of a new border control agency after customs officers went on a two-day “sick-out” in protest.

St Lucians protesting the planned privatisation of the Owen King EU (OKEU) hospital

Meanwhile, opposition to privatisation of the hospital is so high that a group of placard-bearing protesters gathered outside the hospital on Wednesday in the hope of bringing that message across to representatives of the European Union Court of Auditors who were in Saint Lucia on island to ensure that EU funds are correctly accounted for and spent in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations.

According to Philip Dalsou, national authorising officer, the auditors were due to engage in reviewing information related to the design, construction and supply of equipment to the OKEU hospital.

The possible privatisation of the OKEU hospital is the second major UWP policy decision that the SLP has promised to reverse.

In January last year, the SLP announced it will review every economic citizenship granted by the UWP government under new citizenship by investment programme (CIP) rules promulgated by Chastanet, apparently to accommodate a new development project agreement signed with Chinese-backed Desert Star Holdings (DSH).

“Without any hesitation, when the Labour Party resumes office, we will reinstate the net worth requirement and will undertake another due diligence assessment on each and every application granted under the UWP, with our promise to revoke any passports of applicants, who do not meet the $3 million net worth requirement or do not meet the strict due diligence requirements which Saint Lucians expect. Applicants applying for citizenship in St Lucia should be warned that when the SLP is returned to office, we will also demand that all citizens who did not donate the full contribution amount of US$200,000, will be compelled to top up the contribution that they made at the time of becoming citizens,” the SLP said in a statement at the time.

The uncertainty in this regard created by the SLP has reportedly led to Saint Lucia’s CIP underperforming in comparison to its Eastern Caribbean counterparts in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis.

Meanwhile the operations, due diligence, legal requirements, e.g., no mandatory annual report to parliament and details of the use of CIP funds, remain shrouded in mystery.

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7 comments

  1. The SLP leadership does not understand sweet #$$$^-all about privatisation. If it did they would not be talking such bollocks.

    Neither the World Bank nor the IMF would not fund it. If the jackass governments of the past did not have the funds just for the regular upkeep of an unsophisticated VH, do you think that after borrowing at a high interest rate to fund its repurchase upgraded, would they, the SLP be able to maintain minimum operating standards? Where the hell are these people's brains? Are these people high on something Lord?

    (8)(0)
  2. Preventive disease diets and preventive medicine would reduce the pressure of demand for its services. But for all the blustering, even when they had a lopsided majority after election SLP IGNORED HEALTHCARE.

    Yes. All this SLP nose is just a big hoax. SLP did not care.

    They did not care then. They do not care now. All they want is power to reload their bank accounts..

    (6)(2)
  3. So the EU gave St Lucia funding to built a desperately need hospital instead of commission the facility and get it up and running to serve John Public THEY are looking to privatize the facility to outside interest who sole purpose is to make a profit on the backs of St Lucians at any cost, laying off workers and bringing in there own staff another Tronc Inc. The SLP is right this is a gift to The People of St Lucia and it was given not with the intention of privatization. AS for the CIP I 1000 percent agree don't sell or give away your birth right for nothing you want it so bad pay us what we are worth nothing more nothing less we don't care who selling themselves "cheaper" St Lucia values it's self worth.

    (2)(6)
  4. Look at this? These doting old SLP fogies do not understand economics nor business. They will be even older by the time it will be their turn and be given the opportunity to repurchase a whole hospital. SLP did not even govern well enough to run the Victoria Hospital well. SLP seems be talking trash most of the time. Sadly, lies, damn lies, crap and rabble-rousing seem to be all they know.

    (6)(2)
  5. Don't just tell us you will reverse it. Tell us what you will do instead. I would prefer not to have the hospitals' privatized but if you tell me to choose between privatization and the hell holes they have now that you just send your loved ones to die in, then privatization all the way (done well). I prefer to pay an extra fifty dollars than to fly to Martinique every time i have a cold. Yes. I said it. A Cold.

    (7)(2)
    • Exactly, they don't realise that all the "malayways" that use the services of VH and don't pay the paltry bills is the cause of the hospital being the mess it is. Nurses need to be paid, doctors need to be paid, equipment needs to be purchased, buildings need to be maintained. The money must come from somewhere.

      (2)(2)
      • So biggoted Jackass aren't "malayways " you so ignorantly refer to not citizens of St Lucia and are they not entitled to health care just the same ?? No one should be turned away due to their inability to pay or class status. This is why your leader has to go he is only looks out for a certain segment of society he is not a "man of the people" "he is a man of vested intrest" substance over hype.

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