Alva Baptiste Warns: The Temperature’s Rising!
Nearly ten years since the St. Jude Hospital fire, work has once again begun on the redevelopment project. In an address to the nation last November, the government announced that a new wing will be constructed, and this week, early preparatory works continued on the site. While the wing has been described as the best option by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, and is expected to take 18 months to complete, the Saint Lucia Labour Party has continued to raise its concerns on the project.
On Wednesday, opposition MPs Moses Jn. Baptiste and Alva Baptiste, along with other party representatives, convened a press conference outside the hospital site. As contractors went about their work, the meeting got underway with the opposition representatives voicing their complaints.
Alva Baptiste declared that at this point in time, “The temperature is rising,” and promised that more protest marches might be on the SLP’s cards. “If for example they attempt to demolish our buildings,” he said, “then we are going to be very mobilized and we are going to take action! But you are going to know about those actions if there is a need to proceed in that particular direction. The second thing: if they attempt to give a private concern our buildings, the Saint Lucia Labour Party, after winning the next general election, intends to complete those buildings
for the use of the patients and staff.”
Baptiste assured reporters that the SLP would not recognize any contracts between the government and any private entity. “I want to speak to those third parties directly,” he said. “Do not enter into any contractual arrangements with Allen Chastanet and the UWP administration, because the SLP and the people of Saint Lucia are opposed to any privatization of St. Jude’s hospital.”
Moses Jn. Baptiste acknowledged that his government had failed to complete the project after five years of promises to “deliver a state of the art hospital before the end of 2015” but pointedly added, “We never stopped work.” The reference was to the fact that soon after taking office in June 2016, the Chastanet government decided that to spend more money on the half-completed, egregiously constructed St. Jude structure made no sense. Moses insisted that, “When this government came into office, it would have been six months till the completion of the hospital. They found buildings that were in progress. This is not a situation where the government came in and there was no work happening. They stopped work on the hospital for three years.” Baptiste contends that patients and staff should have been transferred from the George Odlum Stadium by now.
In a recent interview with the STAR, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet addressed the amount of time it has taken for that move to be made. He stated that he understands the anxiety, and his government hopes in the quickest possible time to present the new St. Jude. “We inherited a mess,” said the prime minister, “but again I’m not one who continues to blame others; I have to accept what the reality is.” The prime minister said that completing the project would have taken more than a year, and would’ve cost in excess of $100 million.
Another shot at rebuilding the St. Jude hospital has begun. Will this time be the charm? SLP MPs Alva Baptiste (left) and Moses Jn. Baptiste.