OFFICIAL MINISTERIAL ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE JOSEPH NATHANIEL FRANCE GENERAL HOSPITAL

Today Thursday, December 14, 2017 marks a major milestone in the history and operations of the Nation’s major institution-based healthcare facility which began serving our people in 1967.  Today the management, staff, and the entire Ministry of Health celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Joseph N. France General Hospital.  The 50thAnniversary celebrations, which cover a three-month span, are being held under the theme: “Fifty Years of Progress; Fifty Years of Endurance; Fifty Years of Quality Health Services”. The Federal Government congratulates the management and staff of the institution on the attainment of this most noteworthy achievement.

 

For any organisation to have attained a Golden Jubilee there must have been resilience; commitment to purpose; adaptability to local, regional and international challenges and trends; professional dedication; growth and investment in the cadre of services being provided; and genuine responsiveness to the needs of that organisation’s client or customer base. It therefore stands to reason that over the years the management and staff of JNF General Hospital would have set their collective shoulders to the wheel in the development of all of these positive habits and practices that have now brought us to this significant moment in time.

A review of the records of the JNF General Hospital reveals that construction of the facility was deemed necessary after its 119 year-old predecessor, the Cunningham Hospital on Burdon Street, Basseterre, had exhausted its useful life that began in 1848.  Work on the new facility at Buckley’s Estate began in March 1966, following Government’s purchase of the land.  By the time construction was completed the facility – including the cost of the land – would have been valued at $2.2 million. The Minister of Education, Health and Welfare at that time was the Hon Fitzroy Bryant.  The hospital was handed over to the Government on October 28, 1967.  This was followed by an official opening ceremony on December 14, 1967 that was attended by then Governor, Sir Fred Phillips; local Government officials; overseas visitors; and local medical and nursing officials, among other guests. On that occasion, our Country’s first Premier Robert Bradshaw would have indicated that the new hospital was financed by overseas grants, along with funding from the Sugar Stabilisation Fund and the Sugar Industry.

 

The new hospital was named in honour of the late Hon Joseph Nathaniel France who, at that time, was a minister without portfolio who had formerly served as Minister of Social Services.  As an area resident, this would have been a signal honour for Mr France, who had long served as an advocate for social justice.

 

Following the December 14, 1967 official opening ceremony, it took another three months to completely relocate patients and equipment from the old Cunningham Hospital to the new edifice.  As such, the JNF General Hospital commenced services to the public on Sunday, March 10, 1968.  The new hospital was deemed to have had a number of top rated facilities and features, including:

Ø A 164-bed capacity;

Ø A General Surgical Theatre;

Ø A Surgical Ward;

Ø A Maternity Wing that was four times larger than that of Cunningham Hospital, complete with a Labour Suite that contained two delivery rooms and an Operating Theatre;

Ø A Casualty & Out-patient Department;

Ø An Industrial-type Kitchen with allowance for a Cafeteria service; and

Ø A Central Sterile Supplies Department – a new concept in the State that would have ensured everything requiring sterilization would have been done by this Department, from which all Wards and other Departments would be serviced.

From the outset, the JNF General Hospital was operated on the premise that care would be denied to no one, regardless of socio-economic status – a policy that still exists today.  From the time of its opening to the public, the Government ensured that fees would only be collected from persons who either had medical insurance or were earning over $3,000 per annum.  Those patients earning less than $3,000 per year were eligible for admission and care in ‘free beds’ at the hospital.  At that time, the range of fees ran the gamut of 50 cents per day for a four-bed room on the Medical and Surgical Blocks; up to $5 per day for Private Ward; to a high of up to $10 per day for a single room with full bath and air-conditioning in the Maternity Block.  Similar fee arrangements applied to Outpatients, as those with medical insurance – in addition to non-residents – were required to pay for services, including the fees for X-ray and laboratory services.

The hospital was able to meet some of its cost from the generosity and fundraising efforts of “Friends of the Hospital”, a voluntary organisation whose membership included persons such as Mrs O. Audain, Mrs Mildred Bradshaw, Mrs Gladys Southwell, Mrs Aida May Edwards MBE, and Mrs W. DuBuisson, wife of then Chairman of the Board of Directors of the St Kitts Sugar Factory. Throughout the years, other community groups and philanthropic individuals, such as the Paediatric Assistance League (PAL), would have sustained contributions to the JNF General Hospital in order to meet operational and other costs.  Their generosity and civic-mindedness are well-documented and greatly appreciated.

The successful operation of the JNF General Hospital could not have been possible over the years without the yeoman service of a number of individuals and professionals who would have worked at the institution.  This list of employees is extensive, including all operational staff such as maids, orderlies and maintenance workers, as well as professional staff like nurses and nursing attendants, matrons, medical doctors and medical specialists. When the history of the hospital is officially written, its list of faithful servants would include persons like:

–       Former Medical Superintendent, the late Dr Sir Cuthbert Sebastian;

–       First Matron Louisy Walwyn and her successors including Sylvia Garnette, Rosemary Bowrin  and Winifred McMahon;

–       Former Anesthetists, Dr the Right Excellent and Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Simmonds, and Dr Laughton Richardson;

–       Former Operations Managers, Mrs Sheila Pemberton, Mrs Sonia Alexander-Percival, and Ms Launette Adams;

The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis thanks each and every one of these individuals for their service to the JNF General Hospital and to the Country.  There could not have been the attainment of a 50th Anniversary were it not for your combined efforts, time and talents.  Your collective contributions, together with taxpayer revenues, have allowed the JNF General Hospital to expand its range of healthcare services over the past five decades, in response to the changing realities and healthcare demands of our people.  As such, the current hospital has grown tremendously, particularly over the past 20 years, to include such services and amenities as:

Ø Emergency Medical Services

Ø Formal Neonatal Care

Ø Formal Intensive Care/Critical Care Service

Ø 24-hour Coverage by Medical Officers at the Accident & Emergency Department

Ø Haemo and Peritoneal Dialysis

Ø Endoscopic Services

Ø Computerised Tomography (CT Scan)

Ø Specialised Orthopaedic Services

Ø Improved Ophthalmology Services

Ø Chemotheraphy-based Oncology Services

Ø Vascular Surgery

Ø In-Service Education Programmes to Facilitate Formal, Ongoing Training for all Health Care Providers

These and other operational services are presently been rendered by a full staff complement of 519 workers.

The current JNF General Hospital compound, which would have been partly reconstructed in two phases between 2000 and 2004, now includes the following patient accommodations:

Ø Psychiatric Ward = 12 beds (although up to 20 persons are often warded there due to demand)

Ø Surgical Ward = 38 beds

Ø Medical Ward = 33 beds

Ø Intensive Care Unit = 6 beds

Ø Private Ward = 15 beds – originally 23 but 8 are taken up by the recently established Oncology Unit

Ø Paediatric Ward = 24 beds

Ø Maternity Ward = 24 beds

Ø Accident & Emergency Department = 9 beds

Ø Haemodialysis Unit = 6 beds / stations

It is expected that Phase III of the hospital’s reconstruction would focus on the building of new accommodations for operational services that were not covered in the two prior phases, such as the kitchen, Central Medical Stores, Mortuary, classrooms, physiotherapy, housekeeping, laundry, Central Sterile Supplies, and seamstresses’ units.  This phase should also include the construction of a new psychiatric wing. 

The management and staff of the JFN General Hospital, and the Ministry of Health, look forward to continued service to the public in the years ahead.  It is the Government’s intention to continue improving on the provision of quality healthcare to our citizens and residents, particularly as we confront the core health and wellness challenges to our greatest resource, which is our people.  Chief on this list of hurdles is the control, management and reduction of Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs), which is our Nation’s leading cause of death and disability.  As such, other services being planned for in the medium term include the addition of a basic Cardiac Unit to address life-saving, emergency-based care for patients suffering from heart disease.

A full programme of 50th Anniversary activities have been spread out over the three months of celebrations that climax on March 10, 2018.  These activities include the following:

Ø 50th Anniversary Church Service at the Zion Moravian Church on Victoria Road, starting at 7 p.m. tonight – which includes the presentation of awards to past management teams.  None of the successes of the JNF General Hospital would have been possible without the Divine Providence, Guidance and Protection of Almighty God.  As such, the Golden Jubilee appropriately starts with Giving all Praise and Glory to God.

Ø Open Day on Friday, December 15, 2017 – which includes free blood pressure and blood sugar screenings. An exhibition of medical artifacts also will be launched that day, and will continue until January 31, 2018;

Ø Lecture Series in Schools, Churches and Workplaces from January 8 to February 28, 2018;

Ø Symposium on January 20, 2018

Ø Staff Reception & Awards Ceremony at Government House on March 10, 2018

A number of the 50th Anniversary activities are open to the public and, as such, the public will be duly notified of them in time.  The Ministry of Health encourages our citizens and residents to take advantage of these opportunities to support the institution-based health care service providers in our Federation, while learning about the ways in which they can partner with our health practitioners in the policing their own health and wellness.  The information gleaned may be valuable in terms of promoting longevity and a better quality of life among our citizens and residents.

On behalf the Federal Government and the Ministry of Health on St. Kitts I again congratulate the management and staff of the JNF General Hospital on the occasion of their Golden Jubilee.  As Minister of State with Responsibility for Health I am also pleased to officially launch the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the institution.

Delivered by the Hon Wendy Colleen Phipps

Minister of State with Responsibility for Health

Thursday, December 14, 2017

 

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