Last week the prime minister made his first visit to the Owen King EU Hospital since taking office in June this year. He was accompanied by Minister for Health and Wellness, Senator Mary Isaac, Hon. Guy Joseph, Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation, as well as other senior health officials. The Prime Minister held discussions with contractors for the project and health officials in an effort to resolve issues surrounding the full commissioning of the hospital.
“You know my favorite saying these days is, it’s not my fault but it’s my problem,” the Prime Minister said. “What’s critical is getting the facility up and running and opened and obviously we can see that there were a lot of mistakes that were made, particularly as it pertains to the cafeteria and the laundry. So that is what we are working on today in terms of getting this facility up and running as quickly as possible. We can open for a temporary basis without those facilities but clearly we cannot go on any kind of sustained basis without the cafeteria and laundry.”
For his part, Minister Joseph said he had been receiving conflicting reports as to why works at the facility had not been completed within the stipulated or agreed upon time frames.
“The hospital is of serious concern to us and we continue to see the lack of progress in a lot of areas,” he expressed. “When we visited the last time to where we are at now, I have not seen much of a change. It appears to me that people without the requisite competence or capability have been engaged at this hospital to do a number of things that they are unable to deliver on. The government is taking this very seriously because the EU has expressed their concerns. They have played their part in terms of giving us a facility and it is very sad that just the couple of components that had to be handled by the government of St. Lucia that after so many years of the construction phase of the hospital that nothing was put in place to at least put the government’s responsibility on par with that of the EU.”
The minister went on: “That is making us look bad as a government and as a people and it is our intention as a new government to get all of these problems fixed within the shortest possible time. One of the ways we do this is to be present so that people just don’t tell us what is on paper but we are physically seeing for ourselves what the problems are and how they are going to be addressed.”
The Health Minister Senator Isaac added that the visit by the Prime Minister is an indication of the seriousness of the government to arrive at an appropriate time frame for the eventual opening of the facility.
“More and more we are realizing that there are a few snags in the system and a few gaps that will have to be filled before the new hospital is finally opened,” she said. “Of course, we want to open it as quickly as possible because there are certain services that will be offered by this hospital that we do not have on island presently and people have to go overseas and so on. We are trying our best to open it as quickly as possible, but in doing so we must ensure that all the safety nets are met and all the safety standards are met and that we are operating at a very high standard when it does open.”