It was just after 1 AM on the morning of 9th September, 2009 when, a single word screamed across the dark St. Jude Hospital compound, set in motion one of the most glaring and costly fiascos in Saint Lucia’s history. What began to take shape was unprecedented and can be nothing less than a textbook example of mismanagement (and God knows what else) for engineers, project managers, and governments the world over.
Amidst explosions, collapsing roofs, intense heat, frantic onlookers, and desperate hospital staff and patients, St. Jude Hospital belched acrid smoke and flames into the dark nighttime sky over Augier, Vieux Fort. The conflagration left three patients dead and many more traumatized, dazed, and even more desperate for medical attention.
Saint Lucia’s financial situation did not permit the luxury of rebuilding St. Jude’s Hospital immediately following that devastating fire. Friendly governments and organizations, Saint Lucians both at home and in the diaspora donated money for the resurrection of what would eventually become the nightmare of the south.
In the meantime Prime Minister Stephenson King was faced with the dilemma of finding a location to house the now displaced patients. It was incumbent upon him to mitigate the situation and take decisive action. Enter the George Odlum Stadium.
The large rooms beneath the stands of the George Odlum Stadium were commandeered and served as the temporary premises for the now displaced medical staff and patients. Neither expected these temporary arrangements to endure more than a year or two. To date the stadium has been a medical facility for more than eight years. Its exterior has been rusted away by the salt air blowing in from the Atlantic ocean a few hundred yards away on Saint Lucia’s east coast. Many fear it will collapse as a result of the corrosion which has eaten away at its metal infrastructure.
In the lead-up to elections, on the campaign trail, Dr. Kenny Anthony lamented that two years had already passed with no completion of the hospital in sight. In late 2011 Dr. Anthony complains, “It was a tragedy, so, it was necessary for us to show collective understanding. But two years? Come on! Two years in the making, and the hospital is still not completed.” You will recall that the government gave several dates, made several promises to the people of Saint Lucia that they’re going to finish the hospital and be finished by a certain month. And the latest, of course, is that we are told that the hospital will be completed at the end of December .
One year and two months after the rebuilding commenced, on 28th November, 2011, the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won the general elections.
Soon after, in February 2012, Minister of Health Alvina Reynolds said to reporters at the St. Jude’s Hospital compound, “I am very impressed with what I have seen.”
In September 2013 Minister of Health Alvina Reynolds again faces the staff of St. Jude’s Hospital, “I understand, good people of St. Jude, the pressures that you are working under, and that is why I have that level of respect for you.”
Five months later, at another visit to the St. Jude’s Hospital compound Minister of Health Alvina Reynolds, “So far this year, following on the statement I made, this year will be the last year that St. Jude will be occupying the stadium.”
Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony addressed the press gathered at the St. Jude hospital compound for another site visit in 2012, “There was talk initially of a hospital being constructed for $30 million, it’s not in the vicinity of $47 million, I think by completion it’s gonna be about 60. You know what, I think it’s gonna be money well spent.”
At another interview, with CTV News, and displaying the greatest poker face ever, Dr. Anthony drops the bombshell, “I made it absolutely clear that the amount we’re dealing is not $45 million, or $60 million. We’re talking easily about $125 million dollars.”
When Dr. Anthony, while in opposition before 2011, could pressure the government about progress on the reconstruction of St. Jude’s Hospital, and the length of time (two years) being taken to complete the job, it comes across as odd that his administration was beleaguered by constant delays and an ever ballooning total.
What could have happened to increase the estimates of the King administration from $23 million to a shocking $125 million under Dr. Kenny Anthony?
At the very least, Dr. Anthony should give a full account of the reasons why the cost for the rehabilitation of the burnt out St. Jude Hospital ballooned under his watch, from 35 million dollars in 2012 to an estimated 118 million dollars by elections 2017.
Fast forward to 2016, and the SLP administration of Dr. Kenny Anthony is booted out of office in the June 6th. general elections.
In July 2016, one month after elections, the Allen Chastanet led UWP administration halts construction on St. Jude’s Hospital and commissions a technical audit. It is then estimated that approximately EC$118 million had been spent on the reconstruction thus far.
Statements by Minister of Health Mary Isaac indication that one of the options presented to the UWP government is the demolition of St. Jude’s Hospital incites comments from the SLP. It was later reiterated by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet the demolition was only one of the recommendations for St. Jude’s Hospital. He went further to state, “St. Jude’s Hospital will not be demolished.”
Yet for some strange reason the Opposition SLP continues to argue against demolition. Even to the point of Dr. Kenny Anthony issuing some very ominous threats from the podium of the SLP 2017 Conference of Delegates held at the Beanfield Comprehensive Secondary School in Vieux Fort on Sunday 8th October, 2017.
In fact he goes even further to threaten “No Peace!” if St. Jude’s Hospital is demolished. Apparently emboldened further by the crowd of cheering SLP acolytes Dr. Anthony cleared himself for takeoff, “I once warned, if you continue with DSH there will be no peace. And so I repeat, there will be no peace in Vieux Fort south if there is any continuation with DSH.”
As a former prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony must realize the serious implications of his irresponsible statements especially in times like these. What some may consider as mindless rhetoric and self-serving innuendo, it must be realized that it only takes one whacko to latch onto these statements. In whatever way you look at it, these utterances by the one-time party leader (some contend that he still is, behind the scenes).
But in all his talk about patriotism and patrimony there seems to have been no compunction when dealing with Jack Grynberg and millions of acres of our seabed. DSH is a drop in the bucket and pales miserably in comparison. Dr. Anthony’s threats should firstly be directed at himself for his part in the colossal losses to the people of Saint Lucia resulting from his gargantuan and lamentable decisions.
Sadly, these threats seem to be a style and fashion of the SLP only to be dusted off and regurgitated when in Opposition. Who can forget the ominous statement of the last elections being “…this election will not be one between supporters of the Saint Lucia Labour Party and the United Workers Party. It will be an election between the Chastanets and the Saint Lucia Labour Party.”
Or Alva Baptiste’s boldfaced and startling, “Over my dead body will Allen Chastanet be prime minister of this country.”
Threats to write potential investors and warn them not to invest in Saint Lucia, or Philip J. Pierre’s letter to the Queen, warning and advising, against the appointment of Guy Mayers as Saint Lucia’s high commissioner in England are just a few examples of the SLP mindset.
These following statements are nothing less than inciteful and should be condemned by every right-thinking Saint Lucian.
Two ‘leaked’ documents have made their way onto social media – the DSH Framework Agreement and the St. Jude’s Hospital Technical Audit. Yet, strangely enough, the details relating to St. Jude’s have somehow been mysteriously hushed by the SLP as opposed to the DSH document, why? The particular and damning allegations in the St. Jude’s Audit have not undergone the vicious and dogged attacks as were unleashed on DSH, why? Could it be that damning revelations are contained in the technical audit?
For approximately 18 months DSH was in the hands of the SLP yet not a word was heard, and still, up to this day, not much has been said of exactly why the negotiations were stalled. When the UWP administration commenced negotiations after elections in 2016 all hell broke loose, although, as has been said time and time again, no final agreement has been reached. Why didn’t the SLP publicize their failures to agree with DSH and issue ball-by-ball progress reports to the people of Saint Lucia?
Similarly the St. Jude Hospital uproar seems to focus only on the current administration, which halted works immediately on assuming office, and not on the SLP which had the project under their sole control from 2011 to 2016, why? Things that make you go hmmmmmm.
Calls have been made for St. Jude’s Hospital to be opened to the public in order for the construction horrors to be witnessed by all and sundry. Strangely, after all of Dr. Kenny Anthony’s visits and press statements, over the years, at that very same compound during his term of office, why was he unable to see the same shortcomings? Every step of the way the people of Saint Lucia were told that everything was hunky dory.
Dr. Kenny Anthony is the last person on this planet who should ask for accountability from anyone. He was elected to serve the people and be accountable to the people. Yet the times when it was critical for him to explain and take responsibility for his own actions, he instead chose to remain silent, to hide behind lawyers, to wait-out the statute of limitations for any accountability, and stonewall and attempts to get information from him. He has left an indelible stain on the history of Saint Lucia with his no-less-than arrogant behaviour in respect of Rochamel, Frenwell, and Grynberg – to this day many unanswered questions remain surrounding the monumental losses incurred by the people of Saint Lucia. Yet, this man who has failed on a scale of grand proportions has the audacity and gall to threaten “no peace” for accountability from others. The absurdity of such a man is laughable yet bizarre.
It is incredible that Dr. Kenny Anthony can now stand and criticize Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet who intends, for all intents and purposes, to rectify the smoldering and festering mess which was left behind.
Almost certainly, Allen Chastanet will have to perform an exorcism in Vieux Fort to rid the St. Jude’s Hospital project of all it’s devils and boloms.
It is said St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. At this point in our collective history there is no greater need for an intercession. We are in need of deep prayer and an intercession to St. Jude would not be a bad idea at this time.
Date of St. Jude’s Hospital fire – 9/9/09. Saint Lucia’s emergency telephone number: 999