STATEMENT BY THE SAINT LUCIA LABOUR PARTY’S SPOKESMAN ON HEALTH, FISHERIES, AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION, HON MOSES JN BAPTISTE, ON ST.JUDE HOSPITAL AT THE SLP’S PRESS CONFERENCE, MAY 30TH 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press people of Saint Lucia at home and all over the world who have joined us online greetings to you. I trust that you and family are well.
On May 28th 2018, Minister of Economic Affairs in Saint Lucia Hon. Guy Joseph addressed members of the press and the people of Saint Lucia on the burning issue of the St. Jude Rehabilitation Project, the Owen King EU hospital privatization controversy and the hotly debated issue of Health Insurance for Saint Lucians.
The Minister indicated that many reports have been commissioned or have been completed. I quote the Minister, “We have done a number of assessments. The final report from the audit report came in. There is a document coming to cabinet this morning for decisions on this matter. Once that decision has gone through the cabinet process, further details would be released to the public on this matter. “
The Minister still announces that a complete statement will be forthcoming from the Prime Minister. Last week the Minister presented a statement to Parliament merely repeating the rumors and innuendoes of the past two years. Nothing on the way forward. He stated the Prime Minister will make a statement. After this latest Press Conference, the Minister still says the Prime Minister will make a statement. Meanwhile the Prime Minister is in Estonia with Hon. Ubaldus Raymond attending an E-Government Conference. Is the state of our health system not more important than travelling around the world to a Conference?
Firstly, the Saint Lucia Labour Party finds it unacceptable that the UWP Government for almost two years continues to procrastinate on the matter of the rehabilitation of the St. Jude hospital. Cabinet meetings still need to be held, reports are still being commissioned even after over one million dollars of tax payers hard earned money had been spent to produce a report.
Secondly, we ask all Saint Lucians to note the words of the Minister. The Minister refers to “components of the buildings that can be used which will be incorporated into a new St. Jude moving forward”.
He further states that “others that cannot be used for the layout of the Hospital, we will look at the other means or other purposes for which they can be used”.
It is very clear to us and to Saint Lucians that the UWP Government intends to use only part of the St. Jude Hospital Rehabilitation Project site for our hospital.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party rejects the decision of the UWP Government as announced by the Minister!
The people of the South deserve a complete St Jude Hospital as designed and for which financing was sought and for which financing is still available. The people of Saint Lucia need a full St. Jude Hospital not a “half St. Jude Hospital”. No part of our St. Jude Hospital should be handed over to any other private entity. If the Government has made a commitment to any foreign business, the agreement should be cancelled.
The Minister has indicated that there are buildings that are unsuitable. There must be an open and transparent process to determine the assertions of the Minister on this matter. This process must include the SLMDA, architects, engineers, and southern stakeholders. Further, the government must tell the people of Saint Lucia what “other purposes” they intend to use our hospital for.
Thirdly, Minister Guy Joseph tried to once again confuse the people of Saint Lucia by indicating that “It was never our intention to abandon the St. Jude site.”
Statements and actions of the government for almost two years pointed directly to the government’s intention to either “demolish” or abandon the St. Jude Reconstruction Project. Formal statements had also been made by the Minister for Health and other Government Ministers on the government’s intention to hand over our St. Jude Hospital to a medical school and to build a new Hospital near the Brewery. That is public record. There is no need for such blatant dishonesty in Government.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party dismisses the Ministers account and confidently asserts that it is the strong will and actions of Saint Lucians including the work of the medical professionals, the Medical and Dental Association, Saint Lucians living abroad and the work of the Saint Lucia Labour Party that has caused the government to seemingly indicate a change of course on the St. Jude matter.
We do not however believe that the government has in any fundamental way changed its true intentions on St. Jude and that is we believe to house a medical school on the compound of the hospital. This Government has also continued to display blatant disrespect to foreign donors as with the case of the Meat Processing Facility in Beausejour which was built with over 12 million dollars from the Taiwanese people. Now that fully equipped facility has been abandoned for the DSH project. The notion therefore that the St. Jude project will be continued because of donor assistance does not hold.
Fourthly, Minister Joseph indicated that there will be no privatization of the Owen King EU hospital simply because the buildings will still belong to the people of Saint Lucia. This statement shows the disrespect and disregard that the UWP government has for the hard working people of Saint Lucia. A hospital building that has its services managed and operated by a foreign corporate private business for a fee still privatization!!!
The Saint Lucia Labour Party calls on the government to dialogue with the professionals and representatives of civil society in Saint Lucia on the matter of the operations and management of Owen King EU hospital.
We do not and will not accept the privatization of the operations and management of Owen King EU! We believe that there are enough trained and skilled Saint Lucians who are capable of managing our health care system. Whilst we may need from time to time specialized consultancies and technical assistance, we do not need to engage a foreign entity operating for profit to operate and manage our hospitals.
While we note the appointment of a Board in the Gazette that does not guarantee that our services will not be privatized. Confusion still remains on the issue of Owen King EU Hospital, it is this same government which indicated the intention to privatize, then establish a PPP now a joint-venture. It is very clear that the intention of the government is to deliberately confuse the Saint Lucian people and as a result hope that we will cease our agitation for correct decisions on healthcare in Saint Lucia. I assure the Government that this will not be the case we will continue to insist that the Owen king EU Hospital not be privatized.
Fifthly, the Minister announced that a National Health Insurance will be introduced by April 1 of 2019. The Saint Labour Party notes that the Government has had engagements with a number of foreign companies and this action clearly indicates that the government intends to hand over our health insurance to private interests which operate for profit. We are the Party of Universal Health Care. With the assistance of the European Union, PAHO and local stakeholders extensive work was done on implementing a universal health care programme in Saint Lucia.
We have stated before, and wish to repeat, that we are in favour of Universal Health Care with coverage for all Saint Lucians but that we are in favour of Universal Health Care managed by a local national institution! If we can have the best National Insurance Scheme in the Caribbean, then we can set up a National Health Fund to finance our health system. We do not support the handing over of our health insurance to private entities whose first objective it to maximize profit. Any profit which is made should be ploughed back into the Saint Lucian managed and operated health fund for reinvestment in our health system.
This Government continues on a path that is not in the best interest of the public healthcare system and not in the best interest of Saint Lucians. This Government has gone to war with our medical professionals and with our engineers, they have declared open warfare on anyone any group who dares to disagree with them. We remain resolute in our view that the statement of Minister Guy Joseph raises more disturbing questions about the true intentions of the government for the St. Jude Rehabilitation Project and for the privatization of the Owen King EU Hospital.
Very importantly whilst all the talk and attention has been on St. Jude and OKEU, the Government refuses to focus on the plight of the people of Soufriere, tourists and surrounding communities who need the services of the Soufriere hospital. It’s a tragedy to witness the difficulties that the people of Soufriere have to endure. After the first fire at the hospital, it is clear the Minister for Health did not take the necessary and adequate actions to safeguard the hospital.
The current arrangements for public healthcare in Soufriere is equally unacceptable. We are calling on the Minister of Health to make a public statement on the Soufriere situation. Failing to do so, the Saint Lucia Labour Party will mobilize the people of Soufriere and other stakeholders to demand the Government provide attention to Soufriere.
Finally, the Minister’s pronouncements that people who voice disagreement with them are destabilizing the country are arrogant and shows the dictatorial and vindictive attitude of this UWP government.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party rejects the proposal to give the people of the south and Saint Lucia a ‘half St. Jude hospital’, we continue to reject the privatization of the Owen King EU hospital, insist that the government pays more attention to the plight of the people who use the Soufriere hospital and call on all Saint Lucians to be even more resolute in our demands for the UWP government to put our people first.