If the new Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Centre is to open soon on Virgin Gorda, with vastly improved facilities, hopefully (that word again — more later), why is the BVI Health Services Authority only now issuing a “request for information” for an ambulance boat service? Both these facilities have been discussed for years. Such a vessel, whilst otherwise a good idea, will take years to design and build with all the facilities requested, and be very costly.
Virgin Islands Search and Rescue can tell you a thing or two about cost of rescue boats. Further, it is required to be available 24 hours a day, so it will require quite a lot of staff, maintenance and regular training. Whilst it should be available 24 hours a day, and of course is to service the other islands besides Virgin Gorda, I am sure it will not be deployed before other avenues of transportation are investigated at the time. A degree of emergency must be established to ascertain the best response.
Whilst patients waiting on the dock for the next ferry is regrettable, if they were a real emergency, other means of getting to hospital, such as requesting possible help from VISAR, should be explored. And all this might be unnecessary if the VG clinic is fully operational, although other islands might still need service. How many times have air ambulances and/or helicopters been discussed in the past? How many times has the helicopter pad in front of the hospital been used?
Regarding the Virgin Gorda clinic, why have successive governments, civil servants, contractors and builders, been unable to plan and bring in projects on time and in budget? Its announced opening was a false alarm, possibly brought on by political expediency, there still being months of work to be done.
After that, it still has to be furnished — and staff must be recruited and trained — before it can really be said to be open for business. Is the BVIHSA already recruiting staff? Are they budgeted for? Will there be accommodation for them, either purpose-built or available for rent?
Meanwhile, a review found that the National Health Insurance programme is financially at risk, and that government may not be able to fund it at the present rate. It may require an increase in contributions from the public and employers.
Government should have made sure right at the beginning that private health providers did not immediately increase their fees by up to 300 percent. But of course some of the legislators were in the medical profession.
I believe the programme has had to cull the number of eligible beneficiaries, in addition to trimming the limits on payments made abroad. Regulation needs tightening between the NHI scheme, the BVIHSA, private medical facilities, and private insurance companies. It would be a shame for the scheme to collapse, or be severely restricted, and for government ultimately to be in financial difficulties because of it.
Government recently disclosed that the rules surrounding work permit exemptions are to be revised, but why on earth, if you are exempt from having one, do you have to apply and pay for, and renew, a certificate saying that you are exempt? It doesn’t make sense. Are you going to have to show your exemption to any busybody who comes round asking if you are working legally?
I am all for banning the return of the dolphinarium, but I am afraid our people in general don’t have the same regard for the welfare of animals as others do, especially where money might be involved. Remember Omar Hodge and his view on the lemurs (“monkeys,” he called them) on Necker and Mosquito islands? After my small spat with Sir Richard Branson, at least they are held humanely, and I think Virgin Holidays now refuses to promote destinations that feature dolphinariums and the like.