THE Ministry of Health, in partnership with a Switzerland based private company founded by Dr. WalidJuffali, St. Lucia’s representative at the International Maritime Organization, yesterday launched a diabetes project with the hope of creating a new regional standard in diagnosing, treating and pioneering research in the disease.
Professor Philippe Halban, an authority on diabetes is the project’s Steering Committee chairperson. He is with W Science, the Switzerland based private company founded by Juffali. Halban says that the committee will establish a National Diabetes Coordinating Centre here.
Health Minister, Alvina Reynolds said that the centre will be established within the next 12 months and will be accompanied by a nationwide diabetes screening programme; an educational awareness-raising campaign across the country; a world-class training programme to create a local team of specialist diabetes nurses who will be on par with diabetes care specialists anywhere in the Caribbean and the establishment of a national registry of people with diabetes that will enhance clinical care and research in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean.
It is not known exactly where the centre will be located. Neither Halban nor Minister Reynolds could identify a location, however, the Minister explained that the steering committee will determine a location after discussions with stakeholders, meaning persons with a direct interest in it.
“This is all part of the consultation. We may have ideas in our head …We are looking at space, we are looking at contracting people,” Reynolds said.
Also not known is the exact composition of the steering committee.
“The chair of the steering committee has been appointed, which is myself and part of the work we will be doing over the next two days is to discuss with key stakeholders on the island, representing all levels of the society and health care professionals, and I am hopeful that coming out of these meetings we will have a better idea of the composition of the steering committee,” Halban said.
Both Minister Reynolds and Halban are of the view that the diabetes project is not hot air being blown about and that the project will definitely get off the ground.
“This is really going to happen. There is a clear commitment from the government, there is substantial investment already allocated. There is no turning back,” Halban said.
He added that there is a very clear two-year plan for work on structured phases of the project with a budget already committed.
The diabetes project was first announced in last year’s Throne Speech by Governor General Dame PearletteLouisy. She said then that the Government of St. Lucia would embarked on a new initiative to establish the country as a preferred location for investments in medical research, with the view of being able to capitalize on the presenting opportunities for medical tourism.
Government has already engaged the British law firm of Clifford Chance to study the legislative and regulatory framework needed to transform St. Lucia into gold standard medical research centre and has been collaborating with W Science Laboratories AG, the Switzerland based research centre and a team of researchers on a feasibility study for the establishment of a Global Diabetes Research Centre in Saint Lucia.