The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

In its quest for bet­ter healthcare Saint Lu­cia moves cau­tiously ahead, care­ful not to sink deeper into the hole of de­spair. While the prime min­is­ter read­ies to im­pose a scheme that will of­fer is­land-wide health in­surance, many here have their hearts set on one day see­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of func­tion­ing hos­pi­tals. The St. Jude Hospi­tal, lo­cated in the south of the is­land, has been housed in the de­lap­i­dated George Od­lum Sports Sta­dium for nearly nine years. Ef­forts to re­turn the hospi­tal’s op­er­a­tions to the orig­i­nal lo­ca­tion it oc­cu­pied be­fore it was par­tially de­stroyed by fire, have re­sulted mostly in an ad­min­is­tra­tive blame game. Re­cently ef­forts were made to re­place the roof of the sta­dium, de­clared a health hazard since 2014. How­ever, works had to be halted fol­low­ing at least one pub­li­cized com­plaint by a staff doc­tor.

Said the hospi­tal’s CEO, Verna Charles, in a press state­ment: “Things were go­ing just fine but then in the sec­ond week of re­pair work we ex­pe­ri­enced some chal­lenges with our staff on com­pound.”

This week Saint Lu­cia hosted the Wind­ward Is­land School Games in the vicin­ity of the sta­dium. Ear­lier, Sports Min­is­ter Ed­mund Estaphane promised that as­bestos at the site would present no im­me­di­ate dan­ger to the ath­letes or oth­ers at­tend­ing the games.

Shortly be­fore this week’s par­lia­ment meet­ing, the Eco­nomics De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Guy Joseph an­nounced that roof works at the sta­dium had been put on hold. “There are some is­sues raised by the labour depart­ment on health and safety,” he said. “As a gov­ern­ment we are re­quired to abide by the rules so we are wait­ing for the fi­nal con­fir­ma­tion that they have met all of the re­quire­ments.” The games, he said, was another rea­son for the in­ter­rup­tion of re­pair works.

Brice and Com­pany, who were tasked with com­plet­ing the roof re­fur­bish­ment over a month-long pe­riod, de­clared two weeks into the pro­ject that the work was nearly 80% done and pre­dicted it may be com­pleted much ear­lier than an­tic­i­pated.

In the mean­time, Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet has pub­licly de­clared, with ex­pressed re­gret, that the George Od­lum Sta­dium will house the St Jude Hospi­tal for the next two years.

On Tues­day Min­is­ter Guy Joseph of­fered this up­date: “We have to go through the process of ap­proval. We’ve said the hospi­tal will be in op­er­a­tion 18 months after the start of con­struc­tion. So, un­til we have com­pleted these pro­cesses, we won’t be in a po­si­tion to an­nounce an ac­tual com­mence­ment date.”

Roof works halted at the George Od­lum Sta­dium after health and safety con­cerns arise.

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