Health leaders have been given six months to make a case for building a new hospital on St Helena.
But Ian Rummery, chairman of the island’s public health committee, has called for wholesale reform.
“The case we have to make is not just about a new hospital – it is about a new health service.”
He spoke at a press conference on the island’s annual aid talks, two days after a large number of patients left for medical treatment overseas.
UK negotiators toured the hospital in Upper Jamestown soon after arriving for the week-long Development Aid Planning Mission (DAPM).
The aide memoire signed at the end of the week encouraged St Helena Government to “develop an initial longer-term hospital plan within six months”.
It also supported planned renovations to the hospital.
“We had a full and frank look at the hospital infrastructure,” said Councillor Rummery.
“The hospital needs a new operating theatre. One of the reasons there’s been a spike in medical referrals is we are having to send people offshore because we can’t do a lot of operations here.
“It is clear that the new operating theatre and diagnostic suite is a priority.
“But in the longer term we really need to be working towards a new hospital.
“Let’s be clear: it is not the green light for a new hospital but it is, ‘Let’s talk about it – ‘you present the business case and we will start to discuss it.’
“That is very good because the discussions a few months ago were that the door was pretty much closed on a new hospital.”
Mike Olsson of the St Helena Independent asked whether work on a new hospital plan might mean improvements to the existing building would be put on hold for six months.
Ian Rummery replied: “We can do two things at the same time. We need to upgrade the hospital.
“A new hospital can’t be built overnight. You are talking years.”
Maintenance had become an issue, he said.
“We are being driven out of the hospital building. In the next six months we make a business case, concentrating on the hospital now but then going forward by ten years to having a new hospital and a health service.”
He said there was no truth in a suggestion that a new facility was needed to meet the requirements of the island’s new airport, due to open in 2016.
Overseas care is straining family fund, says Indy editor
The St Helena Independent noted on 17 January 2014 that there was an usually large number of doctors on the island – “it must be six or seven”.
Editor Mike Olsson wrote: “We apparently do not have the facilities to enable our doctors to perform their skills in a safe way. Therefore we are sending more patients to Cape Town than ever.
“I know that the enormous number of referrals have put huge pressure on the Family Trust Support Fund. Many people on their way to Cape Town have no spare funds for these kind of eventualities.
“The funds of the Family Trust are depleted and they need urgent funds to be able to help people in a desperate situation.”