HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 14 February 2024

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room

HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 14 February 2024

The Cabinet began its sitting with a prayer by a Minister of religion. The meeting was chaired by the Acting Prime Minister who substituted for the Prime Minister. PM Browne is away on Government Business.

The Cabinet invited the Chief Medical Director and four (4) other management officials of the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre (SLBMC) to provide an update on the several improvements that are taking place at the country’s premiere medical center. For more than an hour the officials answered piercing and probing questions of the Cabinet ministers. The members focused upon the Emergency Room Care, Hospital Care, Medication availability, and the central air conditioning system.

The Medical Director noted that there is a higher volume of patients making use of the Medical Center and that the patients must be divided into Urgent Care and Emergency Care. He pointed out that 35 medical practitioners are employed by the SLBMC in addition to 14 consultants, 12 interns, and 6 student interns. There is no shortage of doctors; however, there is a shortage of nurses. 19 physicians and 3 nurses serve the Emergency Room 24 hours daily; but, the ER is perpetually busy especially during peak hours from 5am to 7pm. The IT Department in the hospital proposes an electronic system to count the actual number of persons using the ER operations daily. The UWI Five Islands Campus Nursing programme is training a cadre of nurses every year who will find employment at the SLBMC to address the shortage of nurses.

The air conditioning system is proving to be one of the biggest challenges faced by the SLBMC. On an inspection, the Minister and the new manager of the hospital’s maintenance discovered 20 empty bottles of Freon—the substance utilized by A/Cs and refrigerators to lower temperatures in these machines. There was a recognition that all the systems require strong maintenance. Until such time that the central unit is either repaired or replaced, 30 individual units have been installed in critical places in the hospital. A 50-ton chiller has been purchased for the Operating Theatres at the SLBMC; the chiller produces cold water which plays a critical role in the cooling of the air that enters into the theatres.

iii. The Cabinet learned that continuous training of nurses and other personnel takes place at the SLBMC.  Customer service training is very important for those who interact with the public. Most out-patients are eager to see a doctor although several steps are required usually before that happens. First, there is the registration of the patient where pertinent biographical data are solicited. Second, the step called ‘triage’ is undertaken where the nurses determine if the patient requires urgent or emergency care. Dependent upon the urgency some patients will immediately see the doctor, and some patients will wait for others who have greater need.

iv. The Hospital has an annual budget of $75 million; however, a little more than $100 million is required to meet all of its needs. However, its pricing structure does not allow for it to meet its needs, because children under sixteen and adults older than sixty are exempt from payment.
The Cabinet continued its examination of those requirements for the successful hosting of the 4th SIDS Conference, scheduled for May 27th-30, 2024, in Antigua. The Chairman of Cabinet spoke with Ambassador to the UN (from the Cabinet room) and was given assurances that many of the requirements in pre-planning were already in place. The Minister of Tourism gave assurances that the V.C. Bird International Airport would be equipped with the kiosks that will allow arriving passengers to enter their biographical data electronically, such that the wait at Immigration in the Arrivals Terminal will be greatly reduced.
Negotiations are continuing with a cruise ship company that will allow for 2,500 delegates to be housed in a cruise vessel moored in St. John’s Harbour during the days of the Conference. The ship will arrive before the conference and depart after. Deposits on hotel rooms have already been demanded; 2,500 hotel rooms will likely be blocked to accommodate that many delegates.

iii. The Cabinet accepted the offer from the United States to train a cadre of Police Officers whose primary function will be to provide Security for the Heads of Government and the Heads of State who will be present during the SIDS Conference, May 27- 30, 2024. The Trainers will come to Antigua and will likely use the Sir Wright George Academy for the training.

The Cabinet held a discussion concerning violence among youth, especially so among youngsters attending Secondary Schools. They noted a decision rendered recently by a U.S. Court that found a parent guilty for the criminal actions of a son. The parent had knowledge of the son’s ownership of a weapon and had also learned of the son’s threats to do harm to others. That parent did nothing to ensure that the child would be deprived of his weapon, nor did the parent take the child for counselling. The Court therefore found that the parent was complicit in the actions of the son and imposed a lengthy jail term on the parent for the crime committed by the child.

The Cabinet encourages parents, whose youthful offspring seem intent on doing harm to others, to seek professional assistance to discourage their child(ren) from anti-social violent behaviour. The Cabinet was responding to the second murder that had taken place in Antigua and Barbuda for 2024. Condolences were expressed to the relatives and friends of the victim.

The New Chairman of LIAT (2020) Ltd. appeared before the Cabinet to seek support for the use of Government’s property occupied formerly by LIAT (1974) Ltd. The object is to provide LIAT (2020) Ltd. with a hangar and other spaces to ensure the security of the airplanes that it is seeking to acquire. The Chairman is on a drive to put measures in place for the seamless transition of LIAT (1974) Ltd, which has been declared bankrupt, to LIAT (2020) Ltd, a new entity.


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