Senior Communications Officer (SCO) for the Government, Nicole Mc Donald, has noted what she described as some glaring “misstatements” in a speech by opposition leader, Philip J. Pierre on Monday.
Pierre’s speech, which was broadcast on local television, dealt with the health ‘crisis’ facing this country.
In her response to the broadcast, the SCO honed in on the opposition leader’s accusation that the current administration is going to spend $12 Million to fix the George Odlum Stadium, where the operations of St Jude Hospital were transferred after a 2009 fire destroyed the original health care institution.
“We can all agree that Saint Lucia deserves a proper healthcare system and as Government we are committed to delivering this despite the fact that the former Government failed to do so,” Mc Donald noted. “What transpired under the former administration with this project was egregious. In his speech, the Opposition Leader seems to have completely ignored the history of the project and his culpability in the situation this country finds itself today. One falsehood which stood out was that the Government will be spending 12 million dollars to repair the George Odlum Stadium where the St Jude hospital is now housed,” she said.
Mc Donald explained that, “There are four critical areas that the Government will be tackling at the St Jude Hospital: the roof, plumbing and electrical and as well as some sewer work.”
She explained that an assessment was done on the entire grounds, but the Government is focusing on the key priority areas to make the staff and patients as comfortable as possible.
“The most costly undertaking will be the roof which we estimate will cost just under one million dollars and we anticipate that work will start within the next two weeks as the Prime Minister has already signed the direct award in order to get this done ahead of the season approaching. We know we have quite a task ahead and our focus is on ensuring that the St Jude Hospital staff and patients are as comfortable and operate in a safe environment at the current facility.”
She went on: “Simultaneously, we will shortly be announcing the decision on the way forward for the St Jude Hospital. We have the technical team of experts with the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Finance and the Minister of Health, finalizing recommendations to be submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers and this is based on the information and the necessary audits and assessments which were done on the project since we took office.”
Mc Donald explained that the Government’s assessments of the project were necessary in order to ensure that the project could proceed in an organized way.
“We are not a Government that operates in the dark. The purpose of the assessments was to establish why this project had cost us so much under the former administration yet we had no hospital to show for it. It was also important that we did not continue as the former administration did in terms of spending money on a project with no clear plan. This is what got us to where we are in the first place,” she said.
“Emotions have been running high on this issue and we understand the urgency of the needs of our healthcare system which is why we took the steps we took. The Prime Minister will be making an announcement soon on the way forward after advice from the Government’s technical team and consultation with the Cabinet of Ministers.”
“We have also heard about conflicting information and the Opposition Leader alluded to it in his speech. We have been consistent as a Government in terms of letting the people of Saint Lucia know that we are getting the facts, holding the necessary audits and once we have all that information we will make a responsible decision on St Jude and OK-EU.
“What has muddied the waters are attempts at fear-mongering which have been fuelled by those who have been spreading misinformation to the public of Saint Lucia. One would have hoped that there would have been a call by the Leader of the Opposition to put an end to this practice. We would have also hoped that the Leader of the Opposition would have owned up to his own Government’s failure to deliver any of the nation’s hospitals whether in the north or the south.”
Mc Donald said that the present administration was the one that initiated the phased move to OK-EU.
“We now have the Dialysis Unit, Radiology, Out-patient clinic operating out of OK-EU because of this administration. We also set up a Negotiating Team to engage and assess to packages to be offered to staff at the OK-EU. We also have a Technical team to gather data on all employees. This is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Health,” she noted.
She said that the Government is also presently getting technical advice from PAHO and the EU on setting up National Health Insurance and once this is done a public sensitization campaign on how health insurance will work will be rolled out