By Mckinley Joseph
BROOKLYN, New York, Saturday, October 10, 2015 — Thousands of patients could die in the next few months as a result of a new policy implemented by the Victoria Hospital. The policy, which the hospital hopes will increase the amount of money collected by patients who are treated and admitted at the island’s main health institution, prevents patients from being admitted if they have an outstanding medical bill at the hospital.
According to credible sources at the Victoria Hospital, the policy was implemented during the week of the 9th of October 2015. Several patients who were admitted by doctors at the Accident and Emergency wing of the hospital were turned away and forced to leave the hospital when they failed to make a deposit or clear their existing medical bill.
While it is clear why the hospital has had to implement this draconian policy, patients’ lives could be at risk if they do not receive the care that they need. Questions are being raised about whether the hospital’s administration empathizes with the patients knowing that families are going through a very difficult time where money is concerned. The economy has not improved despite what Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony said a few weeks ago. Unemployment continues to rise and more and more people are losing their jobs because companies are looking to cut staff in order to meet high operating costs.
Of course, questions must be asked of the government and whether they knew about this new policy. Was this a policy implemented by the Ministry of Health and by extension the Cabinet of Ministers as a way of increasing revenue at the island’s main health institution? If so, is this government really telling Saint Lucia that they are apathetic to the cries of the citizens? Do they not know that most people turn to public health institutions because they simply cannot afford private health care? Would they rather have patients die at their homes than to provide the necessary care that can ultimately save their lives?
Other important questions come up as we have seen this current SLP government create strange and cruel ways of increasing their revenue to meet expenses and to decrease the island’s deficit. Is money more important than the lives of Saint Lucians? Was this the only way to help pay for the expenses of the Victoria Hospital? Whatever happened to Universal Health care? Why can’t the government create a health programme where people who cannot afford health care can qualify for some form of health benefit? Certainly, we are seeing that this government has mixed priorities. Spending $11.2 million on a bridge which should have cost no more than $4 million. Spending $150 million on a highway when tens of thousands of Saint Lucians cannot afford health care. Why was it so important for this government to spend $44 million dollars on a new building to house the office of the prime minister and it is less important to inject a few millions in health care? Is this government telling us that lives do not matter in Saint Lucia?
While we are on the issue of Victoria Hospital, let me just bring up the issue of nurses. Why was it necessary for the government to re-hire retired nurses when there are hundreds of qualified nurses who are either unemployed or working as temporary nurses with little to no benefits doing the same job that the permanent nurses are doing? Nurses who secured loans to pay for their training and now that their training have ended must find monies to repay loans taken at financial institutions.
Obviously, the Minister of Health cannot handle the job she was given by the prime minister and to keep her in that position when the prime minister knows she is failing is more telling of how clueless Dr. Kenny Anthony is. If your health minister is miserable at her job, why can’t you fire her or find someone who can do the job better? Are you telling Saint Lucians that your pride is bigger than their needs? That you don’t care if the health sector is falling apart, your main concern is keeping your SLP people in their jobs and getting a salary for doing nothing?
While the focus is on Tourism and of course the government will proudly boast of what it may or may not have achieved, the health sector diminished severely and has found itself worse off than when this government took office in 2011. St. Jude’s Hospital has not been reopened despite a promise made by the then Leader of the Opposition in 2011, Dr. Kenny Anthony to reopen the hospital when he wins the election. So much pressure was put on the Stephenson King Administration for not completing the project in three years since the fire damage parts of the hospital on September 11, 2009. This Kenny Anthony Administration has had four years to do the job it claimed that the UWP Administration could not do. And still, no word on when the St. Jude’s Hospital will be reopened. All we have heard are lies, lies and more lies from this government.
Let us not even get into why they have not even opened the new National Hospital on the Millennium Highway. For all we know, the very expensive equipment that is housed in the building will be obsolete by the time the government decides to open the health institution. Again, I ask, where are the priorities of this government where health is concerned? Why is this government so apathetic to the plight of Saint Lucians? Why would this government allow for the implementation of a wicked policy that refuses health care to patients who owe the hospital?
Would this government rather see thousands of people dying daily because of this policy? If that is the case, then I am sure Saint Lucians will let their voices heard come October 22nd when the United Workers Party will take to the streets the many issues plaguing this country. Time to say NO to #KENNYNOMICS and #EnoughIsEnough!