Responding to various concerns raised in the media regarding operations at the St. Jude Hospital in the past week, Health Minister Alvina Reynolds has reiterated her ministry’s commitment to working step by step with the institution to ensure that all issues are addressed. Hospital management has admitted to reports of cash flow problems and said that solutions could come by year end.
Reynolds and Executive Director at St. Jude Dr. Chierry Poyotte spoke to media in effort to provide some clarification the various issues which have been brought to the fore regarding the hospital in recent times.
Last week, Opposition Leader Dr. Gale Rigobert through a press release, pointed out several concerns which she claimed have been expressed by staff and patients of the hospital.
She labelled the situation as dire and said it “threatens to cripple the operation” of the southern hospital. Dr. Rigobert pointed to financial constraints as the main reason for a host of the problems at the institution which includes its alleged inability to purchase basic supplies such as toilet paper and commonly used medication such as painkillers.
There were also reports of the constant malfunctioning of essential hospital equipment. The opposition leader also pointed to a “deteriorating structure” at the make-shift hospital (George Odlum Stadium) and had called on the prime minister and minister of health to address the issue.
Speaking to media Executive Director at St. Jude Hospital Dr. Chierry Poyotte admitted to a number of “issues” at the hospital – cash flow being a major one.
He also confirmed reports of infrastructural, electrical, plumbing and other issues since moving into the George Odlum Stadium (makeshift hospital).
“Most recently we had issues relating to a leak in the gas tank and we have done the root cause analysis of that situation and … we need to make some improvements in our communication systems both internally in terms of informing senior management of issues and also externally,” he added.
“We have now created a hospital out of a stadium which is not meant to house a hospital. We’ve had to adjust to the situation and I think by and large we have done an excellent job,” he said.
He informed of challenges regarding the hospital’s financial statements dating back to almost 10 years ago. He said the hospital is looking to have them resolved in the coming months.
“We have within the past two or three years, done an analysis of some of the financial issues that are facing the hospital. There are some challenges …with regard to financial statements that date back to 2004-2005. We have done a full court press on those issues and we expect to have all of them resolved for example before the end of this financial year.
The executive director said the hospital’s management is using the time at the stadium as a learning experience for when it is transferred back to the new St. Jude Hospital building.
“We are looking at our operating systems. Wherever we see gaps in our operating systems we deal with them. We put into place polices and procedures that deal with whatever gaps that we have,” he said.
Poyotte praised his staff and management for their ability to work in times of adversity.
He said that many of the problems that exist have plagued the institution for many years.
He said he is prepared to give his best effort to dealing with those issues.
He added, “One of the more important things that has happened is that ..we have taken the time to elaborate all of the challenges that we are facing and there are numerous.
Poyotte lamented that there was a time when St Jude had begun to gain some traction financially, but was drawn back by the current economic crisis.
He further spoke of a need to approach the situation with urgency however noted that “we need to approach these things in a rational way.”
He assured that there are plans to continue dialogue with the public on those issues.
Last week, Minister Reynolds said she was aware of the problems at the hospital and vowed that government would undertake a number of initiatives in order to remedy the situation.
In a statement this week, Reynolds said that government aims to provide health facilities that are safe and functional, hence the reason for the construction of the New National Hospital, the new St. Jude facility and the prime minister orgnanising and engaging in meetings and trips with partners with a view to secure support for the development of the health sector.
“The government of St. Lucia sees health as a basic human right. The mandate of the ministry of health is to develop a health service delivery system that is acceptable, affordable, equitable, and sustainable and of international standard,” she said.
Reynolds said that her ministry intends to keep the population updated on the situation within the coming months.
“St. Jude Hospital has faced a myriad of problems over the years; some of them financial, some of them technical; others human resource – and so we continue to work and collaborate with St. Jude Hospital…” she said.
She further admitted that financial problems have taken a toll on her government’s plans for the health sector and the hospitals, “but we are committed to ensuring that these problems are addressed step by step…because at the end of the day…we want to ensure that in St. Lucia we have health systems that are delivering good health care to the people of St Lucia.”
She extended special words of gratitude and commendation to St. Jude’s staff for their commitment in trying times “because they are under pressure. They have been at the stadium since 2009.”
She pointed out that the problems experienced now began in 2003 and that government not only has had to deal with getting the new hospitals in order but constructing and maintaining the various health centers and hospitals around the island.
“ A lot of resources are going into the primary health care system to ensure that we do not see the burden and the overcrowding that continue to happen at Victoria Hospital and St. Jude Hospital,” she said.
“Yes there are problems at both Victoria Hospital and St. Jude Hospital but be assured that the ministry… will continue to do its best to respond adequately…” she said.