By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — Ensuing last weeks meeting with an European Union (EU) delegation, other dignitaries and staff of the ministry of health and wellness with regard to the transition from Victoria hospital to the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital, prime minister Allen Chastanet disclosed ‘numerous challenges’ confront his administration ineptitude to commission the facility.
“Several challenges encountered which have delayed the move are major electrical faults, the failure of the air-conditioning system and air quality concern issues,” the prime minister said. However, “Over the past few weeks, we have been able to address the electrical issues and we are currently in the process of rectifying the failure of the air condition system and the air quality issues.
The sophistry of challenges and the repeated commitments made to commission the OKEU is akin to replicate ‘criminal neglect’, and ‘unpardonable’ healthcare crisis in Saint Lucia, however, extends a daring expedition of testing human spirit and mental abilities to the utmost.
To the average ‘Joe the plumber’ and/or a ‘nurse’ these are common issues that should not amount to the shameless exploits of a prime minister that espouse his business acumen – a folic of the attributes on display in the UK and US – to run the country like a business.
“Remember leading up to the 2016 general elections Chastanet cried on stage and promised to open the OKEU hospital within his first year of office?” a commentor inquired on social media.
“The challenge starts with you Chastanet. You have the last say when it comes to where the monies get spent. Right now, your priorities are on tourism. You have been able to find the monies necessary to keep funnelling [through] to this area. Healthcare is a very different story. This was one of your top election promises.” Really?
Another commentor wrote: “The only problem with opening the OKEU hospital is Chastanet himself. He spent too much time on his privatisation scheme while letting other minor situations balloon into what the situation is today, all of which could have been avoided. You broke it Chastanet, either fix it or leave it to the people that can.”
However, despite the ‘challenges’ it is said that the transition is continuing, albeit what akin to reading “the riot act” to the aloofness of the untrained mind – “a not too bright prime minister”.
“Let’s be frank,” said, Stefano Manservisi, director-general, leading the EU delegation to Saint Lucia. “This this is one of the biggest investments the European Union has had over the years. This is a flagship that must work.”
Meanwhile, talking about commissioning of OKEU ‘that must work’, is the aberration at the George Odlum National Stadium, ten years after the St Jude fire still being used as a ‘hospital’ and the St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project (SJHRP).
Parliamentary representative for Vieux Fort South, and former prime minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, has called on the minister for economic development, Guy Joseph, to disclose and explain the cost incurred in site preparation works for the so-called new wing of the St Jude hospital.
“I am advised that the site preparation works for the proposed new building on the St Jude Hospital site cost the government of Saint Lucia just over $9.0 million. If true, this is incomprehensible and mind-boggling.
“It must be borne in mind that this cost is solely for site preparation. It does not include the cost of the construction of the foundation of the building, which from all indications will be a steel frame supported by prefabricated concrete panels.
“How is it possible that merely removing the existing soil which incidentally was on firm ground and replacing it with backfill on such a small site could cost $9.0 million?” inquired Dr Anthony
He continued: “I believe that the minister should make public the bill of quantities which estimated the cost alleged to have been incurred. My attention has also been drawn to an original estimate which had indicated that site preparation would cost only $3.0 million. In fact, I am advised that the original drawing for the site plan had to be re-done since the costing was well beyond the initial envelope,” Dr Anthony said.
“It remains a tragedy that the current government did not complete the existing [St Jude] hospital. Its actions reek of disdain and contempt. In its calculated act of opportunism, it chose to incur new and additional expenditure purely to satisfy its political whims, to manifest its disregard for the parliamentary representative and the people of Vieux Fort South; and to give its friends another opportunity to make money off the backs of the hard-working citizens of this country.” Dr Anthony said.
Prime minister Chastanet admission to ‘numerous challenges’ with OKEU, all be it late, is equivocal to the health crisis facing Saint Lucia.
In the natural sense of prime minister Chastanet’s utterances and actions that differ with undertakings at OKEU, Victoria hospital and SJHRP, mired in political controversy and allegations of corruption, it is seemly a difficult task to admit Saint Lucia’s healthcare is in crisis in accordance with the ineptitude of a Chastanet-led administration, warrants the undertaking of justice to a reprehensible prescription.
“Too many people are dying – there are too many unavoidable deaths taking place.” Dr Ulric Mondesir, September 2017.