A woman died at the Dr. Orlando Smith hospital after testing positive for suspected Covid-19 (File photo: AMANDA ULRICH)

House of Assembly members voted last week to rename Peebles Hospital in honour of Premier Dr. Orlando Smith. While the name of the newer hospital building will change, the original building will be known as the Major Peebles Wing.

The motion to change the hospital’s name was initially met with scepticism from some legislators.

Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton praised Dr. Smith’s medical achievements, but questioned why the motion was taking place in the “11th hour” before the 2019 general election, which will be held on Feb. 25.

“Here tonight we are doing everything wrong that is supposed to lift somebody, who has done so much for us, up. And that is the part that is troubling to me,” Mr. Skelton said on Jan. 22. “Why are we doing this? Are we going to get a lot of votes by doing it?”

According to Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn, who introduced the motion, a six-person committee was established in October 2016 to consider renaming Peebles Hospital. That committee, he said, later recommended the change.

Overall, this process is not unusual, Mr. Penn argued. The Ministry of Health and Social Development has previously renamed various health facilities in honour of residents who have made significant contributions to the territory’s health services.

“And the process that we are about to undertake tonight, Madam Speaker, is no different from all the other processes that we have undertaken over the last 10 to 20 years,” he said.

‘Father of medicine’

Opposition member Archibald Christian had several questions about the renaming committee mentioned by Mr. Penn.

“I am too troubled by the process,” he said. “Because one of the questions that went on in my mind is, okay, who are the committee members? How many members comprise the committee? Who’s the chairman?”

But while some lawmakers criticised the process, none disputed that Dr. Smith was deserving of the honour. In his long career he has served in several positions at the hospital, including medical officer, senior registrar of surgery, surgeon and chief medical officer.

“Dr. Smith is the father of medicine in the country,” Education and Culture Minister Myron Walwyn said. “He has helped so many people; he has delivered so many babies. Even when he was in politics, and somebody fell ill, Dr. Smith found himself down at the hospital doing all manner of things.”

Mr. Walwyn also acknowledged the concerns raised by other members.

“Even though, yes, there might have been some procedural things that perhaps might not have been fleshed out how members thought they should have been, I really don’t think that when any of us search our conscience, search our soul, we could find a person much more fitting than Dr. Smith for that hospital to be named after.”

New minister

At the end of Tuesday’s sitting, Mr. Penn reminded the House that he has only served as health minister for about a month, and to his knowledge the process to rename the hospital began in 2016, when Mr. Skelton was minister.

Mr. Skelton was fired from his post late last year after announcing that he was forming his own political party to contest the upcoming elections.

“How long it took you to go through that process?” Mr. Penn asked, apparently referencing Mr. Skelton. “If I was there it would have been done in six weeks. Maybe six days, too. The man has made his contribution to this territory and he should be recognised for his contributions. Put politics aside.”