It’s amazing how in politics, members of the opposition criticize the ruling government on their ability and potency to deliver ongoing projects, or how they simply make visceral arguments on the competence of those in power. After all, isn’t that the purpose of the opposition, to oppose? Mind you, when the tables turn and they themselves are in office, the curse of incompetence seems to fall unto them as well.
Take for instance the case of St. Jude’s Hospital in Vieux Fort that was destroyed by fire in 2009. When the United Workers Party was in power, the opposition Labour Party criticized them for their inability to complete the reconstruction of the Hospital in a two-year span. They also complained about the temporary relocation of the hospital to the George Odlum National Stadium.
Following the September 9, 2009 St. Jude’s fire the then government acted – according to them – “swiftly in establishing an appropriate temporary location for the institution”.
Some claimed then that relocating the hospital to the stadium was a very irrational decision. Reason for this – the introduction of the hospital at the stadium would hinder the chances for athletic and sporting activities to take place at the venue.
Persons gave suggestions as to “appropriate “ alternatives that should have been considered instead of the stadium, claiming that they were better. The Free Zone was among the locations mentioned to be more suitable. According to chairman of the Free Zone, Mr. Roston Taylor, “If there was no stadium or any other suitable location, the Free Zone would definitely be more than willing to house the sick persons. Given the circumstances however, if the government approached The Free Zone for the purpose of housing sick persons, they would help, if the space was available.”
Taylor explained however that the Free Zone would only be suitable as a short-term option for the hospital. “In terms of capacity, the Free Zone would be suitable for housing the sick, but with its storage sheds’ warehouse design, the interior would have to be temporarily reconstructed,” he said.
“There are no separations inside the sheds, so taking into consideration all the requirements of a hospital, such as wards, bathrooms, clinics and operating rooms to name a few, major reconstruction would have to take place” he continued.
Considering this, it’s safe to conclude that the Free Zone was not the best option. The STAR then decided to conduct some research, comparing the experience at the original site to the stadium relocation. We spoke to a well-qualified nurse with thirteen years of experience about working in the stadium compared to the original hospital site. Among the problems encountered, the most pressing are firstly the issue of space she says. Because of the stadium’s size and design the wards/rooms are smaller. The number of beds had to be cut down – now 15 in her ward, compared to 28 at the original St Jude – and that in itself was already an issue at the hospital.
“This can cause the emergency room to become overcrowded with patients, leading to a need for extra staff, or patients having to be transferred to Victoria Hospital” the nurse stated.
Secondly, there is the issue of privacy. Due to the size of the wards, beds are very close, and space is rather cramped. Procedures can be very tedious, especially when they involve large instruments. Nurses cannot perform their duties efficiently, and a visitor limit has to be placed on occasion, especially on weekends, as persons have to be asked to exit the ward when there are lots of visitors.
However, on the positive side, she explained that “according to “experts” they function well at the stadium under the circumstances”, and in her opinion, whether they were at St. Jude’s or the National Stadium, things wouldn’t be much different if there were a mass casualty.
“We have done disaster drills which have been supervised by NEMO, and those drills have turned out very well, considering the circumstances we have at the stadium, and we provide the same number of services at the stadium in comparison to the site” the nurse concluded.
In 2011, the SLP questioned the integrity of the former UWP government in rebuilding the hospital, claiming that the country had received sufficient funds and donations for the hospital’s rehabilitation.
Now at the helm and approaching their second year in office, the SLP government is still unable to complete the project, ultimately suffering the same “two year uncompleted project fate” as the UWP.
The government also promised an enquiry into “missing funds” from monies donated for a new hospital in the south of the island and that has not materialized. And lately government officials are very reluctant in offering a date by which “a new modern facility” will be available to the people of Vieux Fort and the south. It seems the curse of incompetence is a malaise that not even a new medical facility can cure.