Health has been restored to many at St Jude Hospital for the past 51 years but, since 2009, it remains in a location contrary to what its original founders, the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, would have envisioned in 1966. Like damsels in distress, the staff of St Jude Hospital awaits a return home to the original site.
Slowly but surely, updates are being issued to the public by relevant authorities regarding the halted St Jude Reconstruction Project. Both Prime Minister Chastanet and Minister Guy Joseph implied that the government, between the end of October 2017 and the first week of November, would make a definitive statement concerning the resumption of the project. However, during a pre-cabinet meeting on Monday, October 30, 2017 Minister Guy Joseph indicated a “new” surge of unanswered questions surrounding the project and its payments.
The Minister, on the subject of the treasury and accountant general’s inefficiency, recounted the project’s Main Contractor Cyril Dornelly’s statements from Untold Stories’ ‘The Patron Saint of Lost Causes’ episode, where he said of the EC$48 million supposedly issued forth to Dornelly as stated in records, he only received $12 million. The Minister posed the question, “Where did the other $36 million go to and how did the treasury facilitate these payments?”
Joseph went on to say that a report which was handed to the current government, meant to highlight expenditure, is lacking the information he needs to determine where monies went. He carried on, to express his frustration, “I have said it, we cannot find one piece of accounting document on St Jude.”
As aggravating as it has been to see and hear ministers, contractors, and organisational overseers wrestle with documents and shrug shoulders, ignorant to the placement of tax dollars, it has now become exasperating. Not to mention the unmet November deadline being reminiscent of similar, previous occurrences which have dragged reconstruction out to eight years.
Minutes before Tuesday October 30, 2017’s parliament meeting, prime minister Allen Chastanet reminded the media of the commissioned accounting audit and investigations to charge persons responsible for misspending $118million on the St Jude Project. He did not provide any new information save, “I’m hoping that before the end of the year that I’ll be able to announce to the people of Saint Lucia what we’re going to do.” He resumed, “We do have several options and we are playing each of those options out, but I would feel more comfortable once I have something actually firmed up that I can deliver on to make those pronouncements.”
As wearisome as the issue has grown, perhaps it is in good practice to not forgo investigation into the skyrocketed price of the unfinished project. Expressing his intent on getting to the bottom of things, Joseph said, “Now, I know that I am venturing into an area that has not been ventured into in the past, because people are responsible for projects; you hear a big noise about it initially and then everything is swept under the carpet eventually. What we have found is there is need for forensic audit into St Jude because the technical audit highlighted what the problems were but if you want to trace where the money went to and what transpired, you now need a forensic auditor to come in there.” And so, the wait continues.
On Tuesday Prime Minister Chastanet also addressed his disappointments with the Owen King Hospital. The facility remains unused and may cost between $40million – $50million to become fully operational, but Chastanet confirmed that some essential services, dialysis included, will soon be provided there. He indicated, “We have asked the Ministry of Health to advance the dialysis machines so that we can get the dialysis machines working as quickly as possible at Owen King and I’m hoping that that’s going to be done before the end of the year.”