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Modern Medical Centre Success demands action at Milton Cato Hospital

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The Midweek edition of SEARCHLIGHT this past Tuesday, July 16, published an excellent Editorial extolling the performance of the state-owned Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre (MMDC) over its first year of existence.(By the way, I would strongly urge readers to take out a subscription to the Midweek, it is worth purchasing).

I take the liberty here to quote from that Editorial as follows:

“The reviews are in, and they are unanimous; the quality of service rendered by this diagnostic and treatment centre is unequalled in this country and Vincentians and others have been travelling from as far as Union Island and Chateaubelair to access the services there.”

It must be noted that the MMDC is situated in the north-east of St Vincent, that Union Island is the furthest southwards of the Grenadine islands, and that, in the absence of a trans-island road, persons journeying from Chateaubelair in the north-west face two long road journeys to get to the opposite side of the island where the MMDC is located.

Both the Editorial and the back-page story in the same issue point to the success stories which give rise to the trek towards the institution. The more than 10,000 patients treated there over the year have been drawn there by, to quote SEARCHLIGHT again, “specialist services like haemodialysis and chemotherapy……….the prices of services………the availability of walk-in, same-day diagnostic services like laboratory tests, x-rays and ultrasounds…” It also mentioned “the cleanliness of the facility, the professionalism and caring attitude of the staff” as contributory factors.

The obvious success of the MMDC is yet another reason for us to reflect on the attitude of many among us, persons in responsible position of “The reviews are in, and they are unanimous; the quality of service rendered by this diagnostic and treatment centre is unequalled in this country and Vincentians and others have been travelling from as far as Union Island and Chateaubelair to access the services there.”leadership and influence especially, towards matters of national development in our country. When the idea of the MMDC was first mooted, there were concerns raised publicly principally about its proposed location close to the Soufriere volcano.

Now, there is certainly nothing wrong in raising such concerns and seeking clarification and explanation. But it was taken completely out of context to become an almost anti-MMDC campaign, as had unfortunately happened with the Argyle International Airport (AIA). It was as though the MMDC was not going to be a national institution sorely needed to address critical health needs which it has proven emphatically.

How much longer must we continue on a path which places narrow political and personal interests, even gripes, above those of the progress of our nation and people? Disagreements over the location of the Centre or the cost of the AIA are not by themselves reasons to oppose projects which are clearly in the national interests. The MMDC, like the AIA, are national institutions, there to serve ALL of us, irrespective of where we live, political affiliation or outlook.

Even as we hail these tangible symbols of national progress, we must also be vigilant to ensure that they serve the purposes for which they were intended and that the quality of service offered is not compromised by personal or partisan actions which go contrary to the national interests. One must be mature enough to separate what is in the interests of our country and its people from narrow partisan political interests.

Just the same, congratulations on the achievements of the MMDC must not be used as an excuse to hide the glaring weaknesses of the main public health institution, the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) in Kingstown. Its shortcomings are many, bordering on notorious in some instances and successive governments have not always been honest with us in acknowledging these structural weaknesses. It is therefore no wonder that they have plagued us for so long.

SEARCHLIGHT pointed to this quite frankly in the Editorial in reference, contrasting what it called “the rave reviews of the MMDC with the frequent complaints, horror stories even, from some users of the MCMH”. In fact, the success of the MMDC makes a case for zero tolerance of the shortcomings at the MCMH. The MMDC demonstrates that we can manage and administer a modern medical institution, delivering quality service to all.

From captain to cook, from Minister to administrator right through to cleaner, we must let the clear message be heard, loudly – the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital must become a quality institution too.

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