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Health Minister Unveils Five-Year Strategic Development Plan

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Thursday, March 2, 2006 - Health Minister Damian Greaves says the construction of a new EC $60 million national general hospital will be a major feature in the drive by the Government to ensure that the people’s health needs are addressed in a comprehensive way.

Speaking ahead of next week’s signing ceremony for the financing agreement for the new hospital between the European Union and the Government of St. Lucia, Mr Greaves said the Government is embarking on a major, strategic five-year Health Sector Development Plan for the year 2006-2011.

With this plan, he says, the Government, through the Ministry of Health, “intends to comprehensively transform the overall health landscape of the country.”

“We are modernizing the health system nationally. We have begun and we will continue after the next general elections,” says the minister.

According to Mr Greaves, the Plan comprises “several components, all aimed at addressing our needs and improving the system in a scientific and planned manner.”

The minister identified the priority areas as including “eye health and disabilities, environmental health, oral health, communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

Also on the priorities list are “emergency medical services, violence and injury, social protection (elderly, welfare children’s services, domestic violence and men’s issues) and child and adolescent health.”

The list also includes “food and nutrition, sexual and reproductive health and mental health.”

Mr. Greaves says it was “necessary to broaden and deepen the scope” of the island’s overall health services because, among other things, “we in the Caribbean are already beginning to see signs of illnesses and conditions that were once only heard of in the developed countries.”

“But,” he points out, “while we are preparing to confront new medical challenges, we are also gearing to better handle existing ones, such as Diabetes and Hypertension, which affects as much as 40% of the island’s population.”

The minister says that under a special programme being put together by the Government, “as of May 1 this year, pensioners suffering with Diabetes and Hypertension will be getting free medicines.”

This programme will be administered by the National Insurance Corporation (NIC), and according to the minister, “it will be a precursor to the introduction later of the Universal Health Care (UHC) programme, which will also be administered by the NIC and funded by the Government.”

“The UHC,” says the minister, “will be a kind of National Health Insurance that will combine and rationalise the available health services island-wide, to ensure that everyone, everywhere in St. Lucia, will have direct and immediate access to health facilities.”

“Under the UHC,” the minister says, “each St. Lucian will be registered on a computer database and their records will become available at any and every health institution they may go to, at any time.”

“Apart from constructing a new general hospital and a new psychiatric hospital,” the minister points out, “we have also allocated over $2.5 million for the rehabilitation of 15 health centres around the island.”

In addition, he says, “there will be full time doctors in every community, as we have more doctors being trained and returning home now than ever before.”

He reports that 17 newly-trained doctors entered the health service in 2005 “and there will be as many as 23 more this year, as we prepare to launch the two modern and brand new hospitals.”

According to official statistics, as many as 70 new doctors will return from Cuba in the coming period, in time for the opening of the new hospitals.

He also says “many St. Lucians have benefited from the Cuban Eye Care programme, which has seen over 10,000 persons getting their eyes tested free, and which has been extended for the year 2006.”

“This,” he adds, “is another programme that ensures we take care of all our people’s eye care needs, no matter who they are or which party they support.”

Explaining that the Labour administration was “taking a comprehensive approach to the solution of the island’s health problems,” Mr Greaves says, “We aren’t only talking, we are also doing.”

According to the minister: “The previous UWP administration promised St. Lucians one new hospital, but we are giving two. We are taking care of the health of the nation, and in so doing we are taking care of everyone – UWP, SLP, everybody.”

He says: “We are talking the talk, but we are also walking the walk.”

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