With a population of only 179,625 one would think that the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia would have a healthcare system that the government would have a relatively easy time to manage. Instead, quite the opposite is true as accusations have been made against the ruling United Workers’ Party (UWP) for allowing primary care services and clinics to decline from lack of funding to refurbish and to rebuild clinics and to provide them with basic supplies. Also, the conditions in St. Lucia’s hospitals are also suffering as there is a shortage of basic supplies like beds, sheets and equipment which have not improved since the UWP took over in 2016.
The current controversy involves the St. Jude hospital which for nine years has been temporarily been operating out of the George Odlum Stadium in the Southern town of Vieux Fort since a fire destroyed the original hospital complex along with the deaths of three patients in 2009. It is far from ideal situation as the ‘hospital’ has been plagued by problems that include flooding, electrical and infrastructural issues and staff complaints about poor working conditions. The St. Jude Hospital has been under reconstruction and until late 2016, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet stopped the reconstruction project indefinitely.
Additionally, funding from the European Union to build a modern state-of-the-art hospital, the Owen King European Union (OKEU) hospital is still not completed and another controversial issue has arisen on whether to privatise the facility has not been resolved. Meanwhile, Chastanet has denied signing any agreement with Health City in the Cayman Islands, for the commissioning of the OKEU. Throughout all of these crises, it has been reported that the Hon. Alvina Reynolds, Minister for Health and Wellness, seems to be absent or unaware or confused as to what to do. In other words, there is no focused political leadership in Saint Lucia’s Health System.
If things could not get any worse, Canada, a major tourism market for Saint Lucia, recently issued a travel advisory that warns Canadians to “Exercise a high degree of caution (while) in Saint Lucia due to limited medical resources, generally poor road conditions, unreliable public transportation, and moderate crime rates.”
Finally, one can only hope and pray that St. Lucia will quickly resolve these critical issues as the life and death and well being of its citizens is in jeopardy!