Thursday, March 17, 2005 - The
National Authorizing Office of the European Development Fund’s Project
Management Unit (NAO EDF-PMU) says construction of a brand new national general
hospital on a brand new site
was the best way to go for the future.
The NAO, which is the official administrator of European Union funds in St.
Lucia, has also debunked claims that the new hospital will be built minus a
Critics of the project have claimed, among other things, that consultants had
originally recommended that the new hospital be built on the present site of
The critics of the project also claimed that the proposed new hospital will cost
much more than would have been the case if the present site was renovated and
rehabilitated. But all these claims have been rebuffed by the statement
issued by the NAO on Thursday.
The claims have also been rebuffed by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Stephen King,
who also spoke on the issue as a guest on Radio St. Lucia’s Constitution Park on
Wednesday of this week.
The NAO’s statement noted that there were no less than five studies done on
various aspects in preparing for the new hospital. Those studies examined both
site and structure, as well as number of beds and quality of personnel
A recent article published in the local press by Sir John Compton, which
appeared in the major local newspapers, referred to a recommendation to build on
the present Victoria Hospital site.
That recommendation came from the
very first study made in 1996 and it involved building a multi-storey hospital
by adding floors to existing buildings and relocating various units.
The recommendation promoted by Sir John was for the medical, surgical, intensive
care and maternity wings to be located atop each other. It also involved
relocating the Casualty Department to the La Toc Road and the
Children’s Ward to that side of the property facing the City. But the NAO
report says those options were all considered and found to be inadequate.
It said the European Commission, which is financing the hospital to the tune of
$62 million, had concluded in its Country Support Strategy for Saint Lucia that
“…exhaustive studies have revealed that an extension on the site of the existing
Victoria Hospital would be impossible for reasons of accessibility, land space
and infrastructure constraints.”
In addition, the statement said, the
first of several studies (the same one referred to by Sir John) which was
conducted in 1996, “proved seriously flawed in arrangements, space planning and
cost estimation.” It was also found that the cost of this proposal was “above
the EC $40 million limit that the EU was prepared to grant” at the time.
“As a consequence,” the statement
continued, “it was rejected by the then Government of St. Lucia.”
The report said the new site – along the Millennium Highway – was selected after
it was determined to be much better. This was also confirmed earlier this
week by the Chief Medical Officer.
Dr. King said in the interview on RSL that the new site offered “an opportunity
to construct a brand new hospital on a brand new site, with all of the
facilities of a new and modern hospital.”
The CMO said the new site resulted
from the construction of the La Toc Highway and the opening of the Millennium
Tunnel. He explained: “On the one hand, the highway prevented expansion of the
hilly and constrained Victoria site, but it also opened up the new possibility
for a better site.”
Dr. King also confirmed that contrary to claims to the contrary, “there will be
a maternity wing in the new general hospital.”
He said there may have been an
earlier proposal to operate two locations with a separate maternity wing, “but
this is not the case with the current project.”
The NAO EDF-PMU statement and Dr.
King also both confirmed that the estimated cost of the new hospital has not
increased. The NAO’s statement did not name the critics, but said their
statements “can very well serve to jeopardize the thrust towards construction of
a much-needed, brand new national general hospital for St. Lucia.”
It said the European Union stood
ready to deliver on its support for the new hospital project and St. Lucians
needed to “speak with one voice” to show that the country is “united in our
conviction that hospital services in St. Lucia are in dire need of improvement.”
The NAO EDF-PMU statement said St. Lucians “must speak out with one voice and
declare that the desirable improvements in our hospital services could only be
achieved by allowing ourselves the leeway and flexibility to plan a
new hospital, on a new site.”
Full NAO Report