Statement by Prime Minister Honourable Stephenson King - Status Report and Update on St. Jude Reconstruction Programme
Statement by Prime Minister Honourable Stephenson King
Status Report and Update
St. Jude Reconstruction Programme
December 9, 2009
Ladies and Gentlemen, during the early hours of Wednesday, September 9th, 2009, I was awoken to the news that our beloved St. Jude Hospital was ablaze. As duty and the responsibility of leadership would demand, I immediately sought to mobilize a team of Government Ministers before heading to the scene of the fire in Vieux Fort. On my arrival at about 3:30 a.m. the gravity of the disaster that faced our nation was very apparent.
Unfortunately, 3 Saint Lucians lost their lives in that fire. I wish to again extend sincere condolences to the bereaved families of those who perished.
Notwithstanding that bleak and tragic scenario, I was impressed with the determined and positive approach by all who responded to the St. Jude fire. Our nation will forever be indebted to these individuals who volunteered their services. The display of national spirit, which was so apparent on the morning of September 9th, 2009, was a demonstration of what is possible when we rise to the highest level of service and love for fellow man and country.
As a Government, we undertook the challenge of moving forward with St. Jude with every degree of seriousness and commitment. Our immediate objective was to restore the health services in the South within the shortest possible time. In this regard, we sought to examine all possible options. We however concluded that the most cost beneficial option at our disposal was to house the medical facility at the George Odlum National Stadium.
Once we got the medical services operational again, we set about to initiate an aggressive programme geared towards the reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital. With this in mind, a St. Jude Task Force was established on September 11th, 2009 under my chairmanship as Prime Minister. The mandate of this task force was to raise awareness, gather funds and support from the community as well as from overseas, and to facilitate a speedy design and reconstruction project. In undertaking this project, Government presented a clear vision, that of the reconstruction and modernization of the new St. Jude Hospital as a world class health care and teaching facility with International accreditation standards.
To date there have been visits and contacts made with a number of friendly Governments and agencies as well as international health organizations. These interactions were focused on the provision of either financial or technical support. In this regard the assistance of the Pan American Health Organisation, United Nations Procurement (well known as UNOPS), the United States Army Southern Command, the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute, the Ministry of Communications and Works, Ministry of Physical Planning, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Economic Development has been very instrumental in moving us forward towards the achievement of our vision. The contributions of Saint Lucians and Saint Lucian organisations in the US and United Kingdom must be noted along with assistance provided by our friends in Martinique and Guadeloupe.
As I have indicated, a number of friendly Governments have come forward with assistance and or promises of assistance. These include: the European Union, Canada, Australia, the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), United States of America and Venezuela among others. The Government of Taiwan is committed to the re-construction of the Surgical Ward and the provision and the procurement of major equipment.
To date through local fundraising a total of approximately EC $1.8 million dollars have been raised. This effort is ongoing and all Saint Lucians are encouraged to contribute.
Over the last five (5) weeks we have made significant strides towards the attainment of our vision for the reconstruction and modernization of St. Jude Hospital. In October, Government received a technical delegation from Taiwan which presented a Master Plan for St. Jude Hospital. This plan was subjected to rigorous review by the St. Jude Hospital Task Force, and very shortly, detailed technical specification will be completed. Government will spare no effort to start the rebuilding process early in the New Year.
I must take this opportunity to publicly thank the Taiwanese Government for the technical and other assistance which they have provided thus far.
Government is hopeful that the first phase of the new St. Jude Hospital will be completed within a period of 18 months.
The major concern of the presence of asbestos and the threat of related contamination has been effectively addressed through the technical assistance of the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute. Government is therefore pleased to inform the public that all asbestos residues have been removed from the site and disposed of safely, and further air quality sample tests have produced negative results, or an indication of a clean environment. Government wishes to further report that operations of the St. Jude Hospital at the temporary site at the George Odlum Stadium have been running without any major hitches.
Government is also sensitive and mindful of the disadvantage to our sportsmen and women because of the location of the St Jude Hospital operations at the George Odlum Stadium. This is a situation that has been brought about as a result of a national disaster, which demands the implementation of emergency measures. Government is comforted by the fact that our sportsmen and women have displayed understanding and support during these trying times, and therefore, I must thank them for their understanding and patience. Government has recognized the need to provide alternative sporting venues and in this regard, the Ministry of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports will upgrade and enhance a number of sporting facilities in various locations in the south of the island. I am pleased to announce that consideration will also be given during next year’s budget for further support to the Ministry of Sports’ National Sporting Programme.
In the coming weeks the St. Jude Hospital Task Force will be initiating a number of activities and events that are geared towards galvanizing even further the solidarity and support of Saint Lucians towards the goal of reconstruction of St. Jude hospital. One of the main events will be the St. Jude National Rally, which will give nationals the opportunity to pledge and contribute to the St. Jude Hospital reconstruction effort. The rally is scheduled for February, 2010 and will form part of the official programme for our 31st Independence anniversary celebrations.
Ladies and Gentlemen, during the morning of September 9th, 2009, I made the bold pronouncement that “Out of the Ashes a Phoenix will Rise”. I can now declare with even greater confidence that this Phoenix is about to soar with brilliance and supreme pride. There is no doubt that out of the ashes of St. Jude has arisen commitment and determination, goodwill, resilience, resolve and love.
As we move to this next phase, our actions will be guided by a master plan that has come out of intensive review and consultation. I wish to make a special call to all Saint Lucians to come forward and be counted by indentifying in a tangible way with the St. Jude reconstruction effort. In January Government will be undertaking a “ground breaking ceremony” which will mark the commencement of construction work. It is my hope that somewhere in the near future we will look back with pride at our achievement as we herald the rise of this great phoenix in the south, a new and state of the art St. Jude National Hospital.
I thank you.
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