GOVERNMENT’S 2ND POST-IRMA PRESS CONFERENCE UK Assistance, Health, Tourism, Electricity

By anguillian November 20, 2017 09:53 Updated




The second Anguilla United Front government press conference in the space of two weeks was held at the Chief Minister’s Office on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 14th. The meeting was held to bring the Anguillian public up to date with the plans and progress made relative to abnormal changes brought on by the recent Hurricane Irma.

The Hon. Chief Minister, Mr. Victor Banks, stated that because the Director of Overseas Territories will be soon in Anguilla, it would be a very important time for Government with regard to discussions held with the Director himself regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He said it would be important for him have a first-hand look around. He stressed that the UK official will be holding discussions with various agencies on the island, both in the public and private sector, with regard to individuals’ losses. Mr. Banks noted that the Government’s discussions with the Director will certainly form part of the bilateral discussions when he will be in London on November 24th at the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC).

Mr. Banks remarked that Lord Ahmad’s visit to the island last week had to be cancelled due to other demanding engagements which kept him pre-occupied in the UK. However, he stressed that he will be meeting with him in London prior to the JMC and during the JMC to present Anguilla’s restoration case.

The Chief Minister stated categorically: “Our message will be very clear and precise. It is that Anguilla had a hurricane; the hurricane hit all of Anguilla. I will be stressing that because Anguilla is a small island and there is no part of Anguilla that has been spared to come to the rescue of Anguilla. As is the case when a hurricane hits a portion of the United States, for example, the other forty-nine states can come to its support and render aid. The same would apply if a hurricane would hit a county in the UK. Support can be received from surrounding counties.”
Further, he reiterated, that Anguilla has no fiscal space for borrowing, and any support and assistance must come in the form of grants. Since we have no one else to turn to, we must turn to the UK Government. “We are part of the UK family,” he said, “and we must be treated as such.” He continued: “We must be treated in the same way that the international response to humanitarian issues occurs. Anguilla has been hit to such an extent that our entire economy has been affected and our people have suffered serious losses. Besides, whatever contributions are made by the UK to Anguilla should not be tentative. They should be such as to ensure that we can put ourselves back on the correct course for recovery. This means that the support must be serious and substantive, especially for critical infrastructure projects.”

The Hon. Minister of Health, Mr. Evans McNiel Rogers said that though he had been silent for a while, this did not mean in any way that he has been inactive. He noted that this is due to some hard work behind the scenes that kept him occupied otherwise. Notwithstanding, he mentioned that both him and his Permanent Secretary, Mr. Foster Rogers, had returned to Anguilla over the weekend from an annual OECS Ministers of Health meeting held in Martinique.

“This was a very productive meeting where regional ministers of health get together to discuss the challenges and the way forward in terms of addressing such challenges,” he recalled. “Martinique is the newest member of the OECS and as such it were pleased to host this year’s meeting. I was impressed to witness the level of heath care that is being offered in that country. It is hard to believe that it is just a few miles away from here. The impression one would get there, is that you are in a European environment, and not the Caribbean. The health care services there are second to none in the region and further afield.”

Concerning health matters on the home front in the wake of the storm, Mr. Rogers stated: “Obviously our hospital facility was seriously compromised during the passage of Hurricane Irma. There are a number of buildings that are linked together that make up the Princess Alexandra Hospital complex. While some of the individual roofs on these buildings appear that they were not damaged, going into the buildings themselves one would realize the water damage that was caused by those portions of roofing that were actually badly affected.”

“I want to take this opportunity once again,” the Minister said, “to thank all the staff of the Health Authority of Anguilla: the doctors; the nurses; the ancillary staff, and all who were on hand at the hospital during the passage of Hurricane Irma. I appreciate them for the hard work they did during that critical time, and for the work they continue to do even under the compromising conditions.”

The Minister emphasized: “After about three weeks I realized that something had to be done at the hospital, and it had to be done rather quickly, because rightfully so, the staff was becoming very agitated with regard to the conditions under which they were working. Male, female and children were crammed into one section of the facility that was still intact. So, working together with my government colleagues, we were able to ‘ring-fence’ some CCRIF funding to be able to do the necessary repairs at the hospital.” He noted that in discussion with contractors, it was agreed that to simply replace the galvanize sheets which were torn away would have been just a band-aid kind of solution to the problem. So we decided that it would be best to fit the entire main block of the hospital with a concrete roof. This includes the male ward, the female ward, the pediatric ward, the prepping area, the nurses’ station, and the CT Scan area.
He continued: “It is by the Almighty’s blessings that the new CT Scan machine did not arrive in Anguilla prior to the hurricane as it was scheduled to. It was supposed to be shipped on September 1st, but it was ‘unduly’ delayed due to late arrival of one of the pertinent packages. Lo and behold, he said, the roof of the room that was prepared for the machine was actually torn off and the floor was converted to a pool. That machine might have been indeed totally lost if it was installed within the original scheduled time frame. And if it had been shipped and waiting in a container, heaven knows what kind of damage that container could have sustained, due to the power of Irma’s winds. So we give thanks. It is still in Miami and will be shipped on the 30th of this month.”

Minister Rogers referred to various talk shows that targeted the issue of the new roof. He said that there is word out there that to reconstruct a solid roof from concrete was one man’s idea, and it was ‘single-handedly’ done. “However,” he explained, “I want to inform the general public that this decision was taken by a Rehabilitation Committee. This committee includes: yours truly as Chairman; the Permanent Secretary of Health; the Director of Medical Services; the Director of Nursing Services; the HR Manager, and now Acting CEO of the Anguilla Health Authority; the Director of the Health Care Facilities; the Health Planner; and an Engineer from MICU. This group meets every Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock, and it was out of such a meeting that this decision for the roof was taken.”

He made note of the fact that out of one such committee meetings a recommendation was made and a decision was taken to address an extension to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital. This would give proper care to the most vulnerable of our babies, making sure that they are constantly in sterile conditions. This construction of the new facility will be sponsored by a group called ‘MATTA’, and they will furnish the expansion costs and the equipment for that project. The Minister said that another group is looking at sponsoring an extension to the maternity ward. “This,” he said, “was the only ward that was not affected in any way, since it has a concrete roof”.

The Minister went on to say that in addition to all this, the upgrading of the electrical system and air conditioning must take place. “The electrical system at the hospital has been compromised, and severely compromised. I want to publicly thank Mr. Junie Fleming for the work that he has done and continue to do with us, providing backup generators for our health care services. He and his workmen worked feverishly to keep the hospital provided with power, especially when we were experiencing electrical problems. Electricity is wonderful. But if it is not working properly and up to specific levels it can cause damage to our sensitive equipment that is prone to be damaged due to power fluctuations.”

He mentioned that as a result of such power fluctuations there was some damage, especially to the lab equipment. But in order to mitigate more equipment failure, he was able to make urgent contact with engineers who service such equipment, and an Air Sunshine charter was provided to fly in a field engineer to replace some of the damaged mother boards on the lab equipment. “We do intend to replace the entire electrical system and to upgrade it from sing phase to triple phase standards,” he stressed.

The Minister went on: “I would like, also, through the Governor’s Office, to thank the UK Government for their donation of two standby generators for the hospital. Right now we are looking at providing housing for these. The Health Authority is working closely with MICU which has provided us with drawings of shelters for the generators. These shelters will enable the generators to be running even during a hurricane. The design of the special shelters would not impede the circulation of air, but certainly would prevent water from getting inside the housing.”

Minister Rogers spoke concerning the dental unit as well: “Our Dental Unit roof in The Valley and The Valley Health Center were severely damaged. In the interim, there is a dental chair at the Welches Polyclinic and dental services can be accessed there. In the meantime, however, our Permanent Secretary is working with the Governor’s office to secure two motorized dental units to provide dental service until we decide what plan would be more suited for the area where the present Dental Unit is along with The Valley Health Center.”

Finally, the Minister said: “I would want to say a high note of thanks to our ex-patriots who would like to remain nameless. They have been willing to step up to the plate and assist us in health services in more ways than one. So, I do wish to say how much we appreciate all the support they have rendered.”

The Hon. Parliamentary Secretary Cardigan Connor and the Hon. Minister Curtis Richardson also spoke concerning the areas for which they are responsible, namely tourism and communications/utilities respectively.

While Mr. Connor expressed his appreciation and thanks to those responsible for facilitating the recent arrival of additional lines-men to advance electricity to his constituency of West End as soon as possible, he also applauded the many restaurant and villa owners in the west for braving the adverse conditions to reopen at this time. “These are people “who determined after the passage of the hurricane that they would put their dollars towards the rehabilitation of their properties have shown a true commitment to our tourism industry,” he said. “I want to thank them and all others who have suffered loss, but are yet prepared to re-invest in the tourism industry.”

Minister Richardson reported particularly that the restoration of electricity is moving briskly and on schedule. “I was out today with a face-book effort checking up on all of the linesmen. They are dedicated to the task, and the plan that they have given me is indeed being implemented. The plan is really to my satisfaction and to the Chief Minister’s delight. It shows that in fact we will be having lights as far as West End for Christmas. ANGLEC’s CEO Mr. David Gumbs and his teams are working feverishly to provide 99% of the island with lights by Christmas. So our celebration “Lights for Christmas” would indeed be a reality for all. “Lights for Christmas” is a serious programme, and it is achievable.”

Several questions were posed to the ministers by the media in attendance were answered comprehensively.

By anguillian November 20, 2017 09:53 Updated


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