By Moses Jn Baptiste
Over the last few weeks, two major incidents have taken place in Saint Lucia which highlight the severity of the crisis facing our health sector. Firstly, the visit of the USNS Comfort, a United States naval medical ship and Second, the visit by officials of the European Union (EU) regarding the commissioning of the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) position on the USNS Comfort
The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is conscious of the fact that Saint Lucians are suffering, while pleading with the United Workers Party (UWP) administration to make proper healthcare a priority. A vast majority of Saint Lucians believe that we are now experiencing the worse quality of healthcare in our history.
Yes, we have had challenges before. We remember the efforts of former policymakers and even the laments of calypsonians like the Mighty Invader. But never have we had it as bad. Any parliamentarian who holds constituency office hours and is in touch with constituents will tell you that our people are desperate for better healthcare; therefore, we expected that thousands of Saint Lucians would rush to receive free medical care.
The SLP is very clear that once the ministry of health had cleared the ship, we would not discourage Saint Lucians from seeking free and advanced healthcare. We know, (from historical data) our people are crying out for urgent and better health care.
However, to see Saint Lucian’s turn-out in their thousands, was indeed further evidence that the country’s healthcare crisis is worsening at an even faster rate than we thought. Our people looked desperate and broken, having to line up from before daybreak and some even overnight to be able to get a chance to be diagnosed and treated. It was painful for all to experience.
But then again, the prime minister’s reaction, when he visited the ship, demonstrated his insensitivity. His tears were for the cameras and crew of the visiting ship and clearly for another photo-op; than the plight of thousands of Saint Lucians who were waiting for hours for medical care; and who are still begging the uncaring UWP government to give utmost priority, and solidarity to healthcare, first and foremost.
Regrettable, how much more callous and disrespectful can prime minister Chastanet acclimatise?
The SLP cannot accept that the prime minister was out of state and therefore, unavailable to be in solidarity with the people of Saint Lucia. He should have been here because we believe that healthcare has become a crisis and in short-order become the UWP government’s number one disaster.
This is the same prime minister who was smiling by the starting gates of the race track, a mere 100 meters from the deteriorating George Odlum National Stadium, ten years after the St Jude fire still being used as a ‘hospital’, is now “attempting to cry” in the most hypocritical fashion, to infer that, it is so hard to be able to repair the state of the health sector.
Why cry, prime minister? Why the so-called tears? A contingent of a hypocrite. You said you could have done better. You promised to do better, instead, you kept, in your own words “holding on”.
Holding on for what? For Health City Cayman, to privatise health care – “holding on” – whilst our people are dying?
The commissioning of Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital
The truth is that, when the UWP came into power, they found a commissioning plan for the opening of Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital and a team in place headed by Dr Stephen King.
Instead of proceeding to ensure the immediate opening of OKEU, the UWP government decided to dismissed Dr King and set-aside the recommendations of the New National Hospital Commissioning Project Plan. Three years later, the government has returned to the same implementation plan and employ some of the same people from 2016 to oversee the transition to OKEU.
The latest visit by officials of the European Union (EU) showed clearly that this UWP government has not cared enough about the suffering of Saint Lucians. Not only did prime minister Chastanet embarrass all Saint Lucians, but he also misdirected the officials who saw through his common-place rhetoric “lies and deception”.
His excuses for a bad air conditioning unit and the main switch problem should be dumped just as they were dumped and rightfully so by the EU officials based on their comments.
How embarrassing it was for the government of Saint Lucia to be given a score of two out of ten for work assessed – on opening the OKEU?
Yes, two out of ten. Everyone knows that is a failing grade, a terrible grade. Never in our history has a prime minister being so ridiculed for his incompetence. Not, John Compton; Not, Sir Allan Louisy; Not, Sir Vaughan Lewis. Not, Kenny Anthony or any other.
Prime minister Chastanet has failed the EU and he has failed the people of Saint Lucia. He is the most incompetent prime minister that we have ever had, and he leads the most corrupt, most arrogant, and most useless government in our history.
The consequence of inept leadership in healthcare
What’s worse, is a callous prime minister Chastanet and his ministers. There has been an explosion of sympathy for people suffering from the crisis in our health sector. A crisis that is manifest in increasing numbers of photographs and videos in the public domain exposing the worsening physical conditions at both St Jude and Victoria hospitals.
The public has not seen any evidence of the government rushing to provide relief to thousands of Saint Lucians who access these hospitals, not even if the relief was temporary. Patients have been seen in pictures, on the floor of one of our hospitals with IV attached on a piece of cardboard. Reportedly, this and other cases like it were due to an inadequate number of beds at the facility.
Further, there are weekly reports of shortages of basic medication, beds, implements and materials at St Jude and Victoria hospitals. Patients continue to be asked to take samples to private Labs and to carry items to the hospitals for the comfort and treatment.
It is even more alarming that health minister Senator Mary Isaac continues to be largely absent in the fight for better healthcare for the benefit of all Saint Lucians. Consequent to Isaac’s abilities is unable to provide leadership to crucial and burning concerns the healthcare crisis requires and deserves.
Her utterances have been first, to deny the [verified] pictures were representative of conditions at Victoria Hospital. As more pictures were circulated, minister Isaac said, “It is not the first-time people suffer at Victoria Hospital, it has always happened”.
What a pathetic and uncaring statement by a health minister, and to triradiate that it is long-overdue for minister Isaac to be replaced.
The ministry of health needs urgently leadership, demonstrable action, and demeanor compatible to comprehend that healthcare is in a major crisis and that the people, according to doctors, from all walks of life are dying, because of the worsening healthcare situation.
What else do we need to hear before a change is made?
The SLP calls on all Saint Lucians to continue to raise their voices and to take other legal actions to bring to the attention of this UWP government, the need to refocus the efforts of the government in the direction of the well-being of all Saint Lucians.
The SLP reminds prime minister Chastanet that this healthcare crisis in Saint Lucia is more important than the horses that will be given brand new air-conditioned facilities which will be paid for by money belonging to all Saint Lucians.
The SLP continues to regard the rapidly deteriorating healthcare crisis as the biggest threat to the well-being of Saint Lucians and will intensify efforts to cause the government, to stop spending our money on extravagance and exploits of the privileged few, while the majority of Saint Lucians suffer, and our relatives and friends are dying.