At a press conference hosted on Thursday 5 October, 2017 Prime Minister Allen Chastanet addressed the media and nation about the pressing issues affecting the country. St Jude Hospital was inevitably one of those.
“St Jude is a very sad story,” Chastanet began. “Here we are seven years later with $118 million dollars. So we have to ask ourselves: How did we get here?” A simple question that everyone except the Saint Lucia Labour Party has been asking but no one has yet been made accountable. Chastanet did, however, imply that this question would be answered, eventually. “There was an audit that was done – a physical audit – and it clearly showed where major mistakes were made. So we’ve now hired a law firm that is preparing cases against those individuals and the companies. We’re also hiring a forensic auditing firm who will be able to track the expenditures, where they came from, who gave authority to be able to help support that particular case.”
The prime minister did not provide any insight as to when the investigation would be completed.
Chastanet also revealed that no decision had been made yet concerning where St Jude’s next home will be. The situation, the prime minister said, is a “crisis”. Generating a thin wisp of hope for those listening, he independently posed the question, “What are we going to do about this crisis?”
The answer remains indeterminate. Chastanet claims that on the grounds of the information he has so far received, it is now for the government to continue to find the best options available.
“I’ve had ideas, my cabinet has had ideas which I’m hoping over the next couple of weeks we can come to some kind of conclusion and make a presentation to the public of Saint Lucia about how we’re going to move forward,” he said.
Both the Prime Minister and Minister Guy Joseph have attested to be beyond satisfied with the services provided by the staff of St Jude’s, the latter noting that it is his preferred facility to receive health care. Allen Chastanet did comment at the press conference about St Jude’s quality of work despite the circumstances of “inadequate” resources: “St Jude is running in a facility that’s not a purposely-built facility. It was a stadium and you go there for yourself and see the cleanliness, the aptitude.”
What he did not answer, however, is another question he put out himself: Are there things that we’re going to do now that we know are going to be there for a little bit longer to make the situation more comfortable in moving forward?
Guy Joseph delivered the answer on Monday past during a pre-cabinet meeting but not before explaining one more time why the blame for the state of the hospital should not be laid on him. Minister Joseph reiterated, “It’s not about an agenda; this fiasco at St Jude was not caused by Guy Joseph. But everybody wants to make this a discussion about Guy Joseph . . . People need to move away from this and we need to deal with the reality.”
The minister then continued to give an overview of the number of times the cost of expenditure for St Jude Hospital had changed over the years, particularly under the Kenny Anthony administration. Despite Prime Minister Chastanet’s assurance of a proper investigation, Joseph did not fail to note in his discourse, “By the time Doctor Kenny Anthony, who [was] the minister of finance, who signed on every one of the direct awards for St Jude, we had spent $100 million.”
After being asked in various ways how the St Jude project will be addressed, the economic development minister said that some major repairs would take place at the George Odlum Stadium in the meantime, particularly as it related to electrical and plumbing. He emphasized, “That does not mean that we are fixing things to leave the people there indefinitely.
“I assure you that based on the discussions with the prime minister . . . we are hoping that by the end of this month we can have some clear direction and we can make some clear pronouncements as to what is going to happen and the timelines that we expect it to happen.”
Finally the question that’s been on everybody’s lips: “Where will the money come from this time for stadium repairs,?”
Guy Joseph had this to say: “When you have an emergency situation, you find a way to do it. So, the headache about the money, that’s for the government to deal with.”