While acknowledging the frustration of staff, patients and the public on the long delayed move to the new St. Jude Hospital facility, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has said that the current situation will not change in less than a year and noted that some rooms were not built to specification.
The original St. Jude Hospital was located in Augier, Vieux-Fort but was destroyed by a fire on September 9, 2009, killing three patients. Since then, the hospital has been housed in the George Odlum Stadium, and that building has been deteriorating rapidly causing grave concern among staff.
Speaking to the media during a site visit as part of a “Meet the Workers Tour,” Chastanet said because the new site was not built to accommodate certain basic amenities of a hospital, it will be very difficult to facilitate the move faster.
“…A report that’s been made to Cabinet, unfortunately, a lot of the rooms were not built to specification. So for instance, even when we have rooms that are supposed to have operations in it, it was not designed to be able to put equipment in it. So even if we wanted to move in tomorrow, we couldn’t …. You have rooms that even beds can’t even pass by. So unfortunately, the facilities are not ready to be moved into,” he said.
Chastanet said Cabinet has been considering whether it can review the expectations of the new St. Jude Hospital regarding the number of beds it will provide, with a view to having the facility up and running sooner.
“We’ve really gone past the expiry date here in this facility. Can we downsize the expectations here so in terms of the number of beds? Prioritise some of the things – dialysis, the emergency ward, the operation room? Can we move in there and get those things functioning and meanwhile get some of the other things rectified ?”
The prime minister said that a report has been completed on a way forward.
“I know that there has been a meeting with the St. Jude’s Board. There is now a meeting with the Ministry of Finance in terms of how quickly we can get stuff started up again. So we can try to get into the new hospital as quickly as possible. And so certainly we are not talking about a year. Idealistically, we would like to move in by the end of this year, but I think the minister is uncomfortable at this point of making that commitment, but certainly no less than one year we should be in the facility, and if we can get it even quicker we will,” he said.
St. Jude Hospital serves an estimated 70,000 persons from six of the island’s 10 districts. Chastenat reiterated that he is aware of the frustrations faced by all those affected by the delay.
“People are frustrated. It’s the age-old-dilemma, that when we have old buildings then things are not functioning and we’re waiting in hope of something new. And it’s very difficult for people who are having to deal with the deficiencies on a daily basis to understand why they have had to wait for so long. And so [are asking] if you are not moving into the new building then why can’t we fix what we have? And everybody is scared to fix what we have because everybody believes in the hope that we are moving into the new hospital tomorrow,” he said.
Chastanet added, “I wish I could just wave a magic wand. I wish I had the ability to just say let’s move into the building tomorrow but it’s not, unfortunately, left up to me or anybody else to be able to move into the building tomorrow.”
The prime minister said that after seven years it’s sad that the move is no closer to happening than it was before.
“Its very difficult; one – in terms of the amount of time that’s passed by [and] two – in terms of the amount of money that’s been spent,” he said.