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Indeed, this is a seminal time in the field of health care in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 6th, the Ministry of Health under the Team Unity administration will hold a ceremony at the Joseph N. France General Hospital to officially open the new Oncology Unit there.
“Being part of this moment in history cannot be described as anything less than an honour and a privilege,” the Minister of Health et al., Honourable Eugene Hamilton, said at this morning’s handing-over ceremony.
Speaking to the hundreds of attendees at the site comprising close to one acre of land and an approximately 3,000 sq. ft. physical structure, Prime Minister Harris spoke of the significance of the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre, saying, “It is historic because this is a major accomplishment for community-based health services, and I have been informed that this is not only the first such centre in the Federation, but also in the wider OECS [Organization of Eastern Caribbean States]. We are therefore creating a wonderful legacy and we are making a beautiful history.”
Dr. Harris added that, “I feel good because in less than two years after the people’s victory, we [the Team Unity administration] are delivering to and for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. My Government in its Manifesto presented the ideas about the future development of St. Kitts and Nevis, and in that Manifesto our nation’s health was predominantly featured. We want to continue to feature health, for the wealth of the country is directly correlated with the health of the country.”
It is this ethos that propelled the Honourable Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers to bring the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre to fruition.
The idea for the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre originated out of a Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB’s) Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF)-sponsored project, which under the previous administration seemingly languished on the shelf for several years.
Honourable Wendy Phipps, Minister of State with Responsibility for Health et al., this morning explained that, “When the present administration took office in February of 2015, we recognized that this particular BNTF-sponsored project was about to be lost…what you see today is very much a salvage mission. This project was part of a previous BNTF cycle that had been in discussion and negotiation for at least three or four years, and by the time the government took office we knew that although over $800,000.00 would have been committed by the BNTF through the CDB to the project, if we did not complete this facility by the end of June of 2015 we would have lost everything.”
Minister Phipps continued: “Immediately upon taking office, the government went through a very feverish process with the support of the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Social Services as a separate Ministry, etc., and of course the BNTF staff – and I have, at this point, to give a lot of credit to Mr. Osbert DeSuza [now Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister] who is no longer Director of the BNTF office but it was Mr. DeSuza…who really assisted [the Ministry of Health] through this process…Nevertheless, by the time the project reached to the point of the end of June of 2015, we could have only accessed – out of $800,000.00 committed by the BNTF – just $136,000.00 because obviously the project would have come to an end.”
The Team Unity administration therefore funded roughly 90 percent of the approximately $1.3 million project. The contractor company was Anthony Huggins and Sons, and Mr. Calvin Pemberton, a consultant, served as Project Manager. Mr. Pemberton said this morning that some factors taken under consideration in making the site a healing environment were “lighting, elimination of individual stressors, safety, security, observation, avoidance of visual disturbance, colour, group interaction, and access to nature.” He said features include “planting beds for the clients, and various fruit trees – coconut, papaya, pomegranate, mango, avocado, soursop, and lemongrass tea.”
The Mental Health Day Treatment Centre, which boasts sweeping views of the ocean on its southern side and of lush mountains on its northern side, is intended to be an oasis of rejuvenation and rehabilitation for its clients. As the name suggests, it is not intended to be residential; it is also not intended to treat serious and acute cases of mental illness. Serious cases fall within the remit of other agencies, such as the psychiatric wing of the Joseph N. France General Hospital. Standard operating procedures, which are PAHO [Pan American Health Organization] compliant, will guide the activities [processing and assessment of walk-ins, etc.] and the management of the Mental Health Day Treatment Centre.
The aim of the centre will be to reintegrate its clients back into social, community and work life through consistent rehabilitative treatment that entails counseling, occupational therapy and other interventions. In addition to this treatment, approximately 30 clients per day will be given access to shower and sanitation facilities and receive clean clothing, a hot meal and other amenities and services from the staff on duty.
The staff complement includes a coordinator, employees to staff the laundry and kitchen, and other professionals in the fields of social work, occupational therapy, and mental health nursing.