THE Saint Lucia government has described as ‘very unfortunate’ a controversy that has arisen over a meeting that had originally been scheduled for Friday with the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA).
The meeting did not take place.
Senior Communications Officer for the Government of Saint Lucia, Nicole Mc Donald, who addressed the issue last week, told reporters yesterday that it was important to provide more clarity.
She explained that the SLMDA had written to the government on May 13, 2018, presenting a position paper.
Mc Donald said the Prime Minister wrote back on June 6, 2018, indicating that the government was open to dialogue with the association.
The Senior Communications officer recalled that in his letter, the PM indicated a willingness to meet with the membership of the SLMDA on Friday, June 22 at 10.30 AM.
“The SLMDA responded on June 11 stating that they would be open to meeting with the prime minister at the date and time which was agreed upon,” Mc Donald stated.
However she observed that on Thursday, just before the scheduled meeting, a check with the SLMDA to determine how many of its members would be in attendance in order to decide on an appropriate venue, revealed that only about eight to ten persons would have been present.
“This definitely alarmed us, since we know that there are hundreds of members of the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association. We obviously did not intend to meet with all of them at the same time, because we know that doctors are very busy and members of the association would have other engagements. But we would have hoped to meet with as many of the membership as was possible,” Mc Donald said.
She noted that once it was realised that only members of the executive would attend, the government made it clear that meetings had already been held with the executive on at least two occasions, where the PM spent up to almost four hours in discussion about health matters.
“We felt it was very important that we finally get an opportunity to explain to the membership of the association what are some of our plans going forward and obviously open ourselves up to dialogue and questions directly from the membership of that organisation.”
Mc Donald said once it was realised that the meeting was not going to take place as expected with the membership, the SLMDA was contacted on Friday morning and informed that “we would like to postpone the meeting until such time as we could actually meet with as many members of the organisation as possible.”
She told reporters this information was conveyed to the head of the SLMDA early on Friday.
“However, it seemed that the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association decided to show up even though the meeting was postponed and as you can see, what transpired outside our offices – it is very unfortunate that these professionals have decided to go in this direction.”
Mc Donald maintained that the government remains open to meeting with the SLMDA membership and looks forward to continued dialogue.
SLMDA President, Doctor Alphonus St Rose accused the prime minister of disrespect and asserted that Chastanet cancelled the meeting with the association on the basis that he, as prime minister, would determine the persons with whom he would meet.