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(CNA) — President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital in St. Lucia and visited a banana packaging center, on the first day of her state visit to the Caribbean country.
On the last leg of her diplomatic tour in the Caribbean, Tsai said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, St. Lucia has been moving ahead with many important cooperation projects with Taiwan.
The redevelopment of the hospital will not only improve access to healthcare for the people of southern St. Lucia but will also help the country achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which promote the health and welfare of people of all ages, Tsai said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“I’m confident that when the reconstruction of the hospital is complete, St. Lucia’s overall health care system will be strengthened,” she said.
St. Jude Hospital, which was destroyed in 2009 by a fire that killed three patients, is being rebuilt with financial assistance from Taiwan, according to St. Lucia media.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Tsai said St. Jude Hospital and Changhua Christian Hospital in central Taiwan have established a sister institution partnership, under which medical personnel from the Caribbean country have been receiving training in Taiwan.
In turn, Chastanet expressed thanks to Taiwan for its support and assistance with the hospital reconstruction project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, the prime minister said when the 90-bed hospital is completed, it will provide both inpatient and outpatient services.
Later in the day, Tsai and St. Lucia Agriculture Minister Ezechiel Joseph visited a packaging center for bananas, the Caribbean country’s main agricultural export.
Joseph said that despite the damage to St. Lucia’s banana industry as a result of Tropical Storm Kirk in 2018, banana exports were the highest in five years, thanks to the assistance received from Taiwan.
According to Tsai, with the help of the Taiwan Technical Mission, St. Lucia has seen a resurgence in banana production in recent years and many people are employed in the industry.
During her stay in St. Lucia, Tsai is scheduled to address the joint session of the Parliament and attend the launch of Phase II of the Government Island-wide Network (GiNet) and the Gros Islet Human Resource Development Centre, two projects that are being implemented in cooperation with Taiwan.
Tsai is scheduled to depart St. Lucia around 10 a.m. Friday, ending her state visit to four of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the region. She will fly to Denver for a two-night visit before returning to Taiwan on July 22.