The main opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has said it will demonstrate against the United Workers Party (UWP) government’s handling of the St. Jude Hospital project by staging a protest march in the streets later this month.
In September this year, Health Minister Senator Mary Isaac revealed that Cabinet members were weighing the option of demolishing the over eight-year-old $80-million St. Jude Hospital’s unfinished structure in Vieux Fort. That suggestion was subsequently opposed by government officials including Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
The SLP, at a press conference last week, said that government has failed to provide a clear picture as to its plans for the St. Jude Hospital and is only confusing St. Lucians with “mixed” messages regarding the project. The opposition party has demanded that the UWP government immediately re-open and complete the long-standing project.
SLP First Deputy Leader Alva Baptiste accused the Allen Chastanet administration of being uncaring and insensitive to consider the demolition of the hospital.
“In view of the foregoing, the proposed demolition of the St. Jude Hospital by this current government is symptomatic of its uncaring and insensitive nature. Every effort by the St. Lucia Labour Party when in government to equalise opportunity, to destroy privilege and to give to every citizen the opportunity to progress and to improve their lives is being undermined by this Allen Chastanet-led administration,” he said.
Baptiste said that by opting to destroy the St. Jude Hospital, the UWP administration would be trivialising the aid of foreign partners and organisations.
“The laptop programme has been destroyed. The NICE programme has been destroyed and the government is hell-bent on demolishing the St Jude Hospital – a hospital which has been providing an invaluable service to the people of St. Lucia in general and the people of the south in particular. Hence it is with a deep sense of duty that we respond to the calls of the people of St. Lucia to provide the leadership required to stop this government from setting the St. Jude’s hospital on fire,” Baptiste said.
“Given our vulnerabilities, official development assistance is extremely useful in addressing our social and economic challenges. Every gift from a foreign government to benefit the development of St. Lucia is being trivialised by this current administration in favour of the UWP’s narrow and selfish agendas which have called into question the morality and integrity of this government. In unhesitating obedience to what we deem our patriotic duty we are leading the opposition to the demolition of alternative use of the St. Jude Hospital. We are demanding that works begin with immediacy at the St. Jude Hospital towards completion in the shortest possible space of time,” he added.
Meanwhile, MP for Roseau North, Moses Jn Baptiste, echoed Baptiste’s sentiments by demanding answers from government on a number of questions he said are still unanswered regarding the St. Jude Hospital project.
“So for us, some fundamental questions remain: why did the government of St. Lucia accept in such glowing terms the gift of the Mexicans when it is now obvious that discussions were being held on the possible demolition of the almost completed St. Jude Hospital? Number two: what was the rationale, and what were the reasons for handing over the completed section of the hospital to the newly appointed Board if the intentions, based on recent statements, were to possibly discontinue the use of the reconstructed hospital for its original purpose? It is clear to the St. Lucia Labour Party and St Lucians that mixed messages are being developed and disseminated to deliberately confuse the people about the real intentions about the UWP government where St. Jude is concerned,” he said.
“…The UWP came into office in June of 2016, and stopped work on the hospital in July of 2016. The explanations have been confusing and their statements change with every passing week. We read from the ministers of repurposing the hospital with no clear indication of the intentions of the government… We will therefore as a party continue to join with all St. Lucians to press the government to continue to work on completing the St. Jude Hospital and to commission the facility as soon as practicable,” he said.
Jn Baptiste also called on the government to reveal whether it intends on privatising parts of the public health sector.
“The prime minister and minister for health need to state clearly the intentions of the government in relation to private interests in the management of our hospitals. Recent statements coming after trips made by the prime minister reveal that the government is indeed considering the entry of private interests in the management of our public health facilities,” he said.
He further stated: “After 17 months or 68 weeks of dialysis treatment for many St. Lucians, the UWP and the prime minister have not delivered to St. Lucians the many dialysis machines which the prime minister, then leader of the United Workers Party before the elections, claimed was stored away and deliberately not being used by the St. Lucia Labour Party.”
The SLP will hold its protest march on November 27, 2017.