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Work Under Way for State-of-the-Art Regional Eye Care Centre at Victoria Hospital

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony has confirmed that the Government of Cuba is assisting in the establishment of a state-of-the-art regional eye care facility in Saint Lucia.


The Prime Minister says plans are proceeding apace for the establishment of the ultra-modern regional ophthalmology centre in Saint Lucia, which will provide expert services to patients from neighbouring islands through the Miracle eye care project, Plan Milago.


Dr Anthony says work is already under way at Victoria Hospital, where, with material and technical assistance from Cuba, the regional centre will be based.


Cuba is also providing material assistance in the construction of the sub-regional eye care centre.


The Prime Minister told a rally of the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) in the village of Laborie on Sunday that when the centre is located here, “it will serve patients from Saint Lucia and other independent member-states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).”


As such, the centre will serve patients from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Carricou and Petite Martinique, as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.


“As a result of the location of the new centre here,” the Prime Minister explained later, “unless they need rare or specialised eye care that must be provided in Cuba, Saint Lucians and other OECS citizens will no longer have to travel to Havana.”


“All the eye care now provided in Havana,” he said, “will now become available here when the centre is completed.”


Prime Minister Anthony said the Cubans were assisting the Government and people of Saint Lucia “to improve our human resource capacity.


“At the same time,” he continued, “it allows us the opportunity to reduce on the extent to which we would have to go to Cuba and stretch the generosity of the Cuban government and people.”


Cuba's Ambassador to Saint Lucia, Hugo Ruiz Cabrera, agrees. He says “the centre helps strengthen Saint Lucia’s capacity to deliver the best services at home for the benefit of many countries.”


Ambassador Cabrera said “the centre will be furnished with the latest and most up-to-date medical equipment and will be staffed by the same Cuban doctors presently taking care of eye patients from these countries in Cuba.”


He confirmed that Cuba “will also provide the medicines and assist with the medical and nursing staff for the modern centre.”


Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says the location of the regional ophthalmology centre in Saint Lucia “is another manifestation of the selfless and valuable assistance that Cuba is providing to Saint Lucia and other Caribbean countries.”


He pointed out that the Cuban medical team here “has examined over 10,000 Saint Lucians and over 1,000 have been treated in Cuba.”


“And, apart from training doctors and dentists,” he added, “there are also training 300 nurses, who will now each have the opportunity of extending their scholarships by two more years to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing.”


Dr Anthony, who recently visited Havana and held talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro on several issues of mutual concern to the two countries, also referred to the presence here of some 25 nurses from Cuba, “who are here to assist in strengthening the capacity of our local delivery services at the island’s main health institutions.”


Cuba’s assistance to Saint Lucia over the last 25 years has spanned several fields important for the development of the island’s human resources.


Currently, over 400 Saint Lucians are studying various disciplines in Cuba, while over 200 graduates have returned home after being trained in several fields important to national development.


Altogether, there are thousands of students from the dozen English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states pursuing various university studies in the Spanish language in Havana.


In the case of Latin America, the number of students pursuing similar courses is in the tens of thousands.

But under the Plan Milago project, over 400 hundred thousand persons from Latin America and the Caribbean have had their eyes cared for or sight restored -- which is why those who were blind and can now see have named it “The Miracle Project.”

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