Long wait for appointments at hospital and likely closure of the Cancer Centre leave residents feeling sick at heart

The wait for services at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre is far too long, some residents are complaining, and the administration appears to be insensitive to the fact that people are suffering, a civil servant complains.

The woman contacted REAL News today, April 6, explaining that she went to the facility to make an appointment for an eye examination, and was told the earliest date available is at the end of August.

She reports that her exclamation of dismay – at facing a more-than-four-months wait – was met with what she considers a “cold” response.  She alleges she was told she could “go private.”

Had she been able to afford a private doctor, the woman notes angrily, she would not have subjected herself to the stresses of seeking services at the public hospital.

“If you saw the crowd up there this morning,” she exclaims.  “This place makes me sick!”

Therefore, she is calling on the Ministry of Health to increase either the number of personnel or the equipment needed to allow residents – especially poor people – to access care in a timelier manner.

Meanwhile, dozens of persons are expressing alarm over rumours that the OECS Cancer Centre, intended to be a satellite of the hospital, will be closing.

Unconfirmed reports have said the centre is unable to afford its own upkeep and that the Government has not been forthcoming with financial support.

Cancer victims and their families say that, rather than closing the Centre down, the services of this facility need to be expanded, given the prevalence of the disease in Antigua and Barbuda and the region.

One woman accuses Minister of Health Sir Molwyn Joseph of being “callous and indifferent” to the needs of those afflicted with cancer – the treatment of which is often long and always costly.  

“Because they (government ministers) have proper health insurance and they can get on a plane and go overseas for care, they forget the rest of us are not so lucky,” another says.

Ironically, according to Cabinet Notes published on March 16, Sir Molwyn reported that the Ministry of Health had received a diagnostic machine used for cancer screening from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Meanwhile, looking back at the groundbreaking ceremony held in 2013, the former head of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), MacChesney Emanuel, reflected on the “enthusiastic support” the Authority had given the Cancer Centre project.

Given its importance as a health-care facility intended to serve the sub-region, Emanuel tells REAL News he is “deeply saddened to learn that this centre is closing,” and laments that the Browne Administration is unable to keep the facility open.

The Cancer Centre was conceived by, and begun under, former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.

“It’s like this Administration wants to erase everything Spencer put in place,” a banker tells our Newsroom, pointing to the naming of the hospital and the “huffing” of both the Knuckleblock Community Centre and the Five Islands Secondary School.