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HomeNewsCaribbean NewsSt Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project: 13 years of an ongoing national disgrace

St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project: 13 years of an ongoing national disgrace

By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia –  September 9, marks the anniversary date of the fire at St Jude hospital in Vieux-Fort, Saint Lucia (September 9, 2009) – hitherto, 13 years later, there’s the salient reminder of a failed reconstruction project with all the trappings that seemingly fraternize “corruption, ineptitude, nepotism, puny/crooked – governance” and multiple administrations that wittingly and/or unwittingly contribute to “intellectual gangsters” in modern-day pirates.

Perhaps, the Special Prosecutor Act that, “gives legal authority to the Special Prosecutor to institute both civil and criminal proceedings against any public official who may have engaged in acts of malfeasance and/or is suspected of misappropriating state resources and assets for personal gain,” may find ‘numerous matters to extensively ventilated and thoroughly scrutinized.

‘Criminal neglect’, ‘unpardonable’ defines healthcare in St Lucia

10th anniversary of the hospital fire

Former prime minister Stephenson King reminiscent of his thought process described the current situation with St Jude hospital in remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the hospital fire, September 9, 2019, as unpardonable’ and expressed his feelings as ‘painful’.

“To know that despite all the pain and suffering of workers, the families who lost loved ones and the experience of the night of the fire. I was present on that night and the decisions that were made to relocate the operations of the hospital to the comprehensive school and then to the stadium. I believe that ten years later the fact that we have failed to deliver to the people of Saint Lucia a proper facility to replace the burnt-out facility or to redevelop the existing facility is ‘unpardonable’,” King added. “We have received the resources,” he said. “We have received from the Republic of China (Taiwan) additional resources for the redevelopment of the facility.”

King’s desire for absolution uttered shamefully: “We all must take blame for not completing the facility within the ten years.” We all?

Related: St Lucia government is broke: Former PM calls for an update on St Jude redevelopment project

St Jude hospital shall be completed

In opposition, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) reassured Saint Lucians that upon its return to office: “St Jude hospital shall be completed as part of its overall effort to improve the healthcare infrastructure in Saint Lucia.”

St Lucia’s PM favour horses before hospitals, says opposition leader

“A government that hails the construction of a horse racing track as a major achievement for the country; but at the same time halts the completion and commissioning of the country’s two urgently needed hospitals, is a government that has prized horses over hospitals, and has placed stables before hospital wards. It is a government that is muddled in its thinking, retrogressive in its priorities and has run off its tracks. For the welfare of the people of Saint Lucia, it is a government that must be reined in,” said Philip Pierre, former opposition leader.

How we can create the change needed in St Lucia

In a speech entitled: “How we can create the change needed in St Lucia”, Pierre added:

“With time running out before the next election, (July 26, 2021) they appear busy to recommence construction at the St Jude hospital. Of course, the abandoned St Jude hospital buildings have deteriorated, which will increase the cost of the project.

In all of this, several questions remain unanswered:

  • Who are the contractors?
  • How were they chosen?
  • Was the job tendered?
  • What is the cost of the new construction and what will be housed there?
  • What will be the fate of the existing buildings and the east wing in particular?

Dr Kenny D Anthony’s contribution to the House of Assembly on the estimates of revenue and expenditure 2021-2022, St Lucia in a deep hole: Part 2, March 25, 2021, reads in part:

Issues on St Jude hospital

This United Workers Party (UWP) administration promised the people of Saint Lucia, specifically the people of Vieux Fort that St Jude hospital would have been completed well before the end of 2020. Indeed, the member for Castries South East in a memorable clip, despite his recent claim that he has an aversion to timelines(apparently he has learned his lesson), once declared on a UWP platform celebrating the 3rd anniversary of his party’s accession to office, sometime in June 2019, that before the end of the next financial year “we will be occupying St Jude in the new facility”. That financial year would have ended in April 2020. It is now another financial year, 2021, and still no hospital.

St Lucia in a deep hole: Part 2

But let me return to an observation of the leader of the opposition, Philip J Pierre, on page 593 of the estimates of expenditure, that an allocation of EC$12.8 million was made for the completion of the hospital.

  • Given the current state of completion, or should I say “incompletion”, with cladding being installed on an empty shell, is that an adequate amount to bring this project to completion?
  • Or is this, yet another thinly veiled attempt at duping the people of Vieux Fort into thinking that this government aims to complete the project?

St Lucia’s so-called new hospital remains less than 30 percent complete, says review committee

Reporting on the status of St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project (SJHSP) in the House of Assembly Tuesday, November 16, 2021, prime minister Philip J Pierre, minister for finance, economic development and the youth economy, announced that, ‘the Review Committee’ previously alluded to September 14, 2021, has completed its assignment and handed over the final report en route to the parliament of Saint Lucia at the appropriate time.

However, said the prime minister, “there are some critical findings of note which need to be reported to honourable members”:

  1. The Review Committee estimates that the “new” hospital remains less than 30 percent complete. It would be impractical to work on the hospital while patients are housed on the bottom floor.
  2. The SJHRP Status Report dated July 29, 2021, and prepared by the National Authorizing Office (NAO) ministry of economic development has the cumulative expenditure on the SJHRP Phase 2 from commencement in February 2019 to July 2021, at EC$118.05 million. The status report also states that an amount, EC$89.3 million has been paid to date. In relation to the “new” hospital, the review committee found that there is no programme for the completion of any part of Phase 2 or “new” hospital to facilitate the transfer of the operations from the George Odlum Stadium to the St Jude Hospital into part or all of the lower level of Phase 2.

 UWP marks St Jude 13th anniversary

“Having worked diligently towards building a world-class and state-of-the-art hospital during its recent term of office, the UWP administration was determined to provide to the people of the south, and by extension the people of Saint Lucia, an effective solution to healthcare.

“Unfortunately, the ravages of Covid seriously hampered the progress of the construction works at the hospital site in the south.

“The decision by the current administration to return to the old St Jude hospital which began serving the general population since 1965 is not a move in the best interest of the people of Saint Lucia. The ageing number of buildings are not the most efficient and convenient layout for a modern hospital.

“The old St Jude hospital which was originally constructed in 1942 can hardly be considered as relevant or up to the times,” the UWP statement continued: “The United Workers Party calls on the Philip J. Pierre administration to consider all the benefits of the modern facility started by the United Workers Party and to complete the new St Jude hospital facility. The United Workers Party calls on the current administration to look to the future rather regressing into the past with our healthcare.”

Conclusion

“There is no old and new St Jude hospital,” remarked an architect, “It’s simply St Jude hospital,” noting that “the buildings are on the property of St Jude hospital and owned by the government of St Lucia, and not any politician. Thus the government needs to get to work and complete St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project (SJHSP) ”.

The architect continued:

There are signs that the SLP administration is seen heading in the same reverse operational order as previous administrations. There are concerns to date, with the non-presentation of various architect drawings, costing/budget and a management/consultant team of repute to execute the project.

“Moreover, this must be executed externally, from the management/direction of politicians with little knowledge of hospital construction, negotiation and/or procurement, etc, except for daily political footnotes.”

In a request for comment, a well-known physician said:

“The public must have zero tolerance for these non-transparent awarding of contracts and/or Design-Build-Finance (BDF) which can serve as a breeding ground for corruption and theft.

“The UWP has the gull to utter pronouncements on St Jude hospital reconstruction when they seemingly “disregarded the common-sense approach to awarding contracts through an already established transparent mechanism of the central tendering board,” he continued. “ The Saint Lucian public is growing impatient with shame, lack of integrity, dishonesty and low credibility of many Saint Lucian politicians that knows no boundaries.”

“Saint Lucians must also demonstrate public outrage at both parties who seem to know right from wrong only when in opposition … once in power they recycle their corrupt transgressions and public malfeasance against the public and its treasury with impunity.”

Insight

The Pierre led-administration must differentiate itself from the historical chronology of “shame, intellectual gangsters, corruption” and in theory, access to the “Special Prosecutor to institute both civil and criminal proceedings against any public official who may have engaged in acts of malfeasance and/or is suspected of misappropriating state resources and assets for personal gain,” is fair game.

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