For Immediate Release
December 19, 2014
PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR BIPARTISAN APPROACH TO HEALTH CARE FINANCING
The Millennium Heights Medical Complex Bill came up for its second reading in the House of Assembly this week, the final sitting of this session for the calendar year 2014. Introduced by Member for Babonneau and Minister of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, Hon. Alvina Reynolds, the bill speaks to the establishment of a Board to direct the affairs of the complex, soon to be established at Coubaril.
The complex includes the newly named Owen King EU Hospital, the Mental Wellness Centre and the Turning Point Rehabilitation Centre. Funded by the European Union at a cost of $189 million, the project represents the biggest investment ever undertaken by that agency.
Member of Parliament for Vieux Fort South, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs, Planning and Social Security, Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, spoke in support of the bill. Whereas the bill does not address health care financing, Dr. Anthony said that the time has perhaps come to look more closely at the cost of medical services on the island.
The Prime Minister insisted that Universal Health Care must be implemented in order to guarantee every citizen access to a basket of health services. He went on to suggest a joint approach to what he acknowledged as a difficult and long-standing problem. Dr. Anthony said:
“You know the greatest gift we can give to the people of Saint Lucia is [to] get together and arrive at a common position on financing health care. If we say we love the people of Saint Lucia, that is the greatest gift we can give to them. If you see the two of us can get together, sit down, look at this issue of health care financing, the people of Saint Lucia will have extraordinary confidence, not just in our integrity, not just in the promise that we all care for them, but they can believe in a political system that can work better. We would neutralize the issue and make it a non-issue for the political platforms.
“I want to plant a little seed, Mr. Speaker, in all sincerity to the Opposition. One of the things I think we should do very seriously is to set up a joint committee of Parliament to look at this issue of health care financing. The Opposition talks very glibly of making health care VAT-free.
“The question is, how are you going to finance the $40 million you need to guarantee persons treatment at our hospitals? Where are you going to get the $40 million from? That is the question we have to face.
“How do we bring an end to the embarrassment and humiliation that Saint Lucians face on a continuous basis when we have to go and beg Martinique to take care of our people, or these days, as I have just had to do in Cuba, beg Cuba to take care of our Saint Lucian patients at reduced cost? When do we bring an end to it? When do we bring an end to that issue?
“Can we therefore agree that we can set up a joint parliamentary group to look at this issue of financing health care so that we can together say to the people of Saint Lucia that we have a problem on our hands? We don’t want to fight about it. We know it’s an issue. We now have the institutions to take care of our people, but we but we still have to decide how [we] are going to pay for it.”
Prime Minister Anthony said in the House of Assembly that he would be writing to the Opposition with a proposal to initiate the process of engagement.
Completion of the medical complex is one of several positive moves accomplished by the present administration with regard to the health sector. In the last three years, Government has completed and reopened the Dennery Hospital, extended the Gros Islet Polyclinic and refurbished ten Health Centres. Support has continued for training of health care professionals, and implementation of a comprehensive national health information system has revolutionized the speed and efficiency with which health care facilities are able to deliver their services.
The commissioning of the new National Health Complex will take place sometime in 2015.