We inherited something that in and of itself is a disaster!” – Minister Guy Joseph on Monday, perfectly composed and ready to perform some damage control for the statement his colleague, Minister for Health, Mary Isaac divulged last week.
Her notion of possibly having to demolish the hospital and recommence all construction was refuted by Minister Joseph when he said, “No final decision has been arrived at. Whether St. Jude remains as is or not, that is a building that is going to be completed. We do not have intentions of knocking down the building, as persons seem to be advocating.”
According to the logic presented by Joseph on Monday morning, the plans on the table are to either: 1. Demolish and reconstruct sub-standard areas of the hospital building; or 2. Continue with the construction of St. Jude Hospital (SJH) as is and find a site for a new hospital.
With the latter the building would have to serve as a temporary location while a new hospital is built. But to that the minister confessed, “My fear with moving in this direction is everything that is temporary in this country becomes permanent. Can you move from one makeshift facility to another makeshift facility? And is that what the people of the south deserve?”
However, neither of the aforementioned satisfies the option of completely demolishing the current structure. Minister Guy Joseph authoritatively stated, “If St. Jude is going to be demolished, I don’t want to be a part of it.” Either way, the fate of St Jude Hospital is still in limbo.
This time however, it is a hope of many that the board members of SJH would be a part of the any definitive decision taken.
Against the backdrop of the media’s hungry cameras aimed at everyone potentially involved in the seeming scandal, St. Jude Hospital’s board and staff are still going strong. Although no one expected to be at a stadium for eight years, resources and patience running low, they are determined to run the institution and deliver their core values of honesty, accountability, confidentiality, and patient/client satisfaction, no matter the ambience.
On Wednesday 27 September, 2017 they welcomed six volunteers from Changhua Christian Hospital in the Republic of China (Taiwan). For three weeks these Taiwanese nationals will be exercising skills in obstetrics and gynaecology, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), Chinese medicine, therapy and nursing. This volunteer programme is one of the many avenues through which the Taiwanese government has assisted the St. Jude Hospital, and Ambassador, H.E. Douglas Shen pledged continuous, support in the future.
Tangible activity was taking place at the assumed temporary location in the George Odlum Stadium but the majority of the media was engaged in a tour organised by the government of Saint Lucia, of the still unfinished Saint Jude Hospital. On Wednesday morning, members of the hospital’s board and staff claimed to be unaware of the engagement.
Nevertheless, the tour of the site saw the attendance of government officials and the new project engineer, Norman St. Hill. Ministers were not available to attend either event.
The site visit was originally organised for fire officials to assess the safety requirements of the building but Nicole McDonald, Senior Communications Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister explained, “It was important for the media to see for themselves some of the major issues that the government is facing with regard to the construction of St. Jude Hospital. We’ve been hearing a lot of misinformation out there.”
Of course, the sightseeing escapade revealed eight years of error. The problems that the new project overseers will have to face are inclusive of low ceilings, windows unable to withstand hurricanes, insufficient and ill-placed elevators. Corridors would have to be expanded to at least eight feet and entries for wheelchairs and ambulance are too steep for general standards. St. Hill also imparted that equipment and material ordered for new building is currently sitting patiently in the warehouse and greeting expiry dates.
Norman St. Hill seemed as aggravated as the media with the mistakes made during previous development of the St Jude project. The project engineer said the priority was to get the hospital functional and the patients out of the stadium. According to St. Hill, from the estimations already made, renovations for the structure would require about US$100 million or more. “The building looks about 50% complete and we’ve spent about $100 million, so do the maths,” he said.
It was established that the auditing period is not over and formal estimations still need to be made, which may alter the estimation even further.
In a short interview with the Deputy Chairman of SJH Board of Directors, Darnley Lebourne, he was adamant about the board’s involvement in further decisions concerning the outcome of the hospital. Similar to statements made by engineer Norman St. Hill and Minister Joseph, Lebourne affirmed, “From the standpoint of the board we are resolute in our conviction that we need to get the medical institution reestablished as soon as possible at its former home or the original site of St Jude Hospital.”
He said that the board understands the struggles faced by the government presently and noted, “We are aware that there are challenges that we face as a small island developing country but we believe that too much time has lapsed . . . what we’re looking for is to engage with the government and we’re hoping that can happen soon.”
St. Jude Hospital, now a haunting skeleton of wasted money, sponsorship, donations and inconvenience, joins the likes of scandals such as Grynberg, Frenwell and Juffali. With over $100 million worth of material probably hardly able to be salvaged, we’re back to square one, flashing back to 2011 when the project had to be re-evaluated.
Guy Joseph rightfully asked, “Is that what the people of Vieux Fort deserve?”
But when the question: “Where would this money come from?” was posed to another seeming scapegoat of the government, Deputy Permananet Secretary Philip Dalsou responded, “That’s a serious question that we need to examine. Quite a bit of money has been spent on the current project and the government would need to look at options for financing the completion of the project. At this point funding sources are still being explored. We also need to get a clearer estimate. We need to get a more formal estimate and then explore possible funding options.”