Our Readers' Opinions
November 10, 2015
NDP’s proposed hospital, an ‘airy-fairy’ project

Editor: “This is not an airy-fairy project.. this is not a joke.” These are the words of Daniel Cummings, NDP’s shadow minister for Health at Calliaqua on October 31, 2015. These are the words that sparked my interest in what the NDP is proposing for the health sector, should they form government.

The NDP’s website states “In order to adequately meet the needs of our nationals as well as visitors to our shores, a new general hospital would be built and equipped.{{more}} The specific site is within the zone of the major population centres.” It also states, “Apart from the easing of congestion at MCMH, the new state of the art hospital will free up the building in Kingstown to be used as other government offices and departments.”

In Cummings’s presentation, a concept design was shown to the crowd of supporters, sporting a helipad on the roof. Cummings explained, “The people from the Southern Grenadines, when they have emergency, can fly straight to the hospital. The people from Fancy, as in that Buddy Gutter tragedy, can be air lifted straight to the hospital. Down in Peto, in an emergency…”

NDP leader Arnhim Eustace also said on Saturday that the new hospital will cost about 75 million dollars and the NDP would get technical assistance from PAHO and financing from the European Union and “friendly governments in the Caribbean and Latin America.”

On the morning of November 2, 2015, the NDP public relations officer Vynnette Frederick said on the Boom FM radio show that “East St George has been scouted” because it is “smack dab in the middle” of the country.

The 75 million dollar costing for the hospital is grossly underestimated. The average cost to build a hospital today is about 1.2 million dollars per bed. The MCMH has 210 beds and to replace it would cost about 252 million dollars. 75 million dollars would only give you 62 beds, so it is either the NDP’s plan is poorly costed and falls short of reality by 177 million dollars, or they intend to build a smaller hospital and offer less health services to the nation. To get an appreciation for the true cost of building a main hospital we only have to look to St Lucia which recently built a new 130 bed hospital for over 235 million dollars.

There is another flaw in the NDP’s plan, that is, the closure of the MCMH. The European Union is currently investing over five million dollars on improvements to the Operating Theatre, the ICU and recovery room, the Female Surgical Ward, and the Maternity A ward, among others. The NDP’s plan to close the MCMH to create government offices will waste this investment and more importantly, does not consider the need for clinic and accident and primary emergency services for the large population in Kingstown.

Then there is the plan to put the hospital in East St George. Unfortunately, this part of the NDP is also flawed, as the Government recently announced that Arnos Vale has been chosen by a World Bank study to place the new referral hospital. The choice of Arnos Vale was on the basis of accessibility, logistical closeness to outlying health facilities for accident and emergency services, land availability and importantly, the lowest natural hazard risks. For the NDP to contemplate another site without studying these critical factors is purely irresponsible.

On August 16, 2015, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced to the nation at a public meeting that his government intends to build a referral hospital at Arnos Vale. He followed up with other public statements that some of the medical services at the MCMH would be retained. Now, that is NOT a joke. The NDP’s dangling of this political carrot in front of an unsuspecting public may be good political strategy, but their plan IS an airy-fairy project, lacking credibility and just a disingenuous ruse to win votes. Vincentians, beware. The development of the Health Sector is serious business and clearly, the NDP isn’t ready for that.

House Bound