Health Minister defends Government’s intention to compulsorily acquire the Cancer Centre in order to save lives

Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph is defending the Government’s decision to compulsorily acquire the Eastern Caribbean Cancer Centre Ltd., now – about a year after he and the prime minister were apprised of the intended closure.

On Thursday, May 18, the Government took to Parliament a Motion to take control of the Centre.  Joseph, who moved the Motion,  

asked for a division, and, by a vote of nine to five, it was passed.

Joseph says it was important that the Government make this move, since cancer is among the leading causes of death in Antigua and Barbuda, and without the Centre many people will die.

At the last sitting, the health minister had guaranteed cancer patients that, despite the closure of the Centre, their treatment

would continue.  He said that arrangements would be made to have them treated overseas, including in The Bahamas, which has a similar centre.

Now, however, Sir Molwyn says the Administration cannot afford to drag its feet on this issue, because the stakes are too high.

Meanwhile, even as the Government claims it has been subsidizing the Centre, it claims that the facility owes the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) over $2 million.

Joseph rationalizes what some Opposition Members see as a “property grab” by saying the Administration would be putting people’s lives in jeopardy if it has to seek permission from the owner to use the facility.  The Government is not prepared to do that, he asserts.

The Motion was passed after a seven-day notice reportedly issued to the owner, Dr. Conville Brown, had expired – without a response on the way forward, Joseph claims.

Dr. Brown had written to the Government indicating his intention to close the Centre at the end of April.  Reportedly, he said the facility was not profitable and the vision of treating patients from across the OECS and other countries had not been realized.

United Progressive Party MPs, meanwhile, believe that a deal could have been brokered over the course of the year, and the matter should not have been allowed to reach the stage of compulsory acquisition.