A NEW financial target has been arrived at for the completion of the St Jude Hospital Redevelopment Project.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet yesterday announced that a total US$35 million will be spent on the project right up to completion scheduled for end of this year.
That is not the total amount of money that has gone into the project since a fire on 9 September 2009 destroyed the surgical and pediatric wards and the operating theatres of the hospital.
It was the government of Prime Minister Stephenson King in 2009 which made the first policy decision to construct a new hospital with works toward that end starting under that administration.
The fire of 2009 forced the hospital’s evacuation to the George Odlum Sports Stadium where it is currently located with most services previously available at the old St Jude being offered at the alternate site.
The Labour Party administration took over the reins of power in 2011 but could not complete the project however they did support the idea of a new hospital on the old St Jude site.
Conflicting reports have emerged about the amount of money spent so far on the project. The current administration, just over a year after it took office, has been consistent in claiming that over EC$100 million was spent on the project by the Labour Party administration.
In fact, the current administration has maintained EC$118 million as the amount of money spent by the former administration on the hospital; this went along with claims that the hospital was 50 percent complete.
This has been vehemently denied by the Labour Party administration which at the time was led by Dr Kenny Anthony.
The current administration stopped work on the project upon entering office in 2016 despite the existence of a US$20 million loan facility from Taiwan, 10 million of which was available to be used by the present administration.
More than one completion date had been forecast for the hospital’s completion over the past years and several controversial issues have been attached to it due entirely to the different approaches the various administrations have taken about its construction and design.
With millions of dollars already gone into the hospital redevelopment project, an estimated US$30 million will be needed to bring it to completion. This figure was broken down by Prime Minister Chastanet at a news briefing yesterday.
“We have a US$150 million loan that has been approved (with Taiwan). One hundred million dollars of that have gone to the national airport (redevelopment project). Forty-two million have gone to the road rehabilitation programme, four million was used by the Ministry of Education for the rehabilitation of schools and four million goes into housing.
“We have another 50 million dollars that we are currently engaging in. Already 20 million of that has been approved for the St Jude Hospital which would bring the total amount of 30 million dollars that we would have used currently from the Taiwanese. We had 10 million dollars that remained from the 20 million dollars that was loaned. It will be 30 million dollars in total that my government has engaged with the Taiwanese on St Jude’s,” Chastanet said.
When asked by this reporter about a dollar figure for the completion of the hospital the prime minister said his government is looking at around US$35 million as the amount to take the hospital to completion.
St Jude Hospital is a Statutory Body of the Government of Saint Lucia and is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the Minister of Health. It is located in Augier, Vieux-Fort, in the southern tip of the island.
The hospital was formally opened as a Charity Hospital on the 5th of September 1966 by Mother Irma and the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, a Franciscan religious order based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA. This was done on behalf of the Catholic Church. Patient care was given at no charge. The hospital was staffed primarily by volunteer doctors, technicians and others from the United States and other countries. It became a model of excellent healthcare. This tradition of volunteerism continued over the years.
The sisters managed St Jude Hospital until 1992, at which time the Saint Lucia Government awarded a management contract to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. In 2003 the St Jude Hospital Act No. 7 was passed, providing for an independent Board of Directors to manage the hospital. The Ministry of Finance partially subsidizes the hospital with an annual grant which is used to pay the salaries of hospital employees. The Act gives the hospital the right to charge and obtain patient revenue in order to meet operating costs not covered by Governmental subsidies.