PRESS RELEASE – Coming on the heels of a press statement issued by Dr. Gale Rigobert, Leader of the Opposition on July 17th about the poor state of St. Jude hospital, Dr. Rigobert last week visited the facility in a show of moral support for the staff and patients and to witness first-hand the conditions of the hospital.
She was accompanied by Dr. Chierry Poyotte, Chief Executive Officer of St. Jude Hospital, and for over two hours engaged with patients and staff alike and gained a heart wrenching appreciation for the challenges they face.
Given what Dr. Rigobert witnessed, she is convinced that the situation is urgent and highlights the failure of Government to pay attention to the health of the nation. For Dr. Rigobert, the statement issued by Minister Alvina Reynolds in response to the St. Jude crisis was wholly inadequate, devoid of compassion and showed no commitment to resolving the inefficiencies of the health sector and that of St. Jude in particular.
Dr. Rigobert urges the Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Forth South, Dr. Kenny Anthony and the Minister for Health, Ms. Reynolds to pay a visit to the hospital and see for themselves the deteriorating state of the SJH and to show some concern for the staff and patients of SJH and the residents of the South.
Dr. Rigobert observed that “Even while patients lamented on the physical condition of the hospital, the lack of supplies and the need to walk with their own linen, for example, the patients I spoke with applauded the work of the staff.” Notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts of the staff, the situation at SJH is not conducive to providing quality health care and must be fixed urgently, Dr. Rigobert warned.
The magnitude of the crisis was further highlighted last week when the country was placed on alert for tropical storm Bertha. Bertha exposed the naked reality of St. Jude. It was reported that staff at St. Jude hospital in preparing for the impending storm, made the ghastly discovery that their supplies were wholly insufficient and below standard requirement for disaster preparedness. Dr. Rigobert lamented, “one would think that given the hurricane season started on June 1st that by now the Ministry of Health would have seen it fitting to conduct the necessary checks and to ensure that the hospital is adequately equipped to deal with any weather system.”
According to Dr. Rigobert, the shame of SJH is further compounded by rising global fears regarding the Ebola epidemic. On Thursday evening following a reported Ebola scare at Piarco International Airport in Trinidad, Dr. Rigobert learned that the relevant agencies here were alerted of St. Lucia’s own vulnerability. Reports are that calls were made to St. Jude personnel to ascertain whether they had the necessary protective gear … a question that the Minister for Health cannot leave unanswered. Is St. Jude (or any of the health facilities on island) equipped with protective gear for medical personnel dealing with a highly contagious disease such as Ebola? What does the Ministry of Health have in place to monitor passengers who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus or other contagious diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)?
Dr. Rigobert said, “we have seen the widespread effects of Chikungunya and the challenges that this country faces in dealing with the outbreak. We can only fathom what a highly contagious disease would do.” Dr. Rigobert asserted that Government’s abject failure to attend to the needs of the health sector is a huge gamble with the health and lives of the people of this country.
According to Dr. Rigobert “God spared us Bertha, will we have the same luck with MERS and Ebola?”