St Helena Online

Tag: overseas aid

St Helena needs ‘new hospital and new health service,’ says Ian

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.”

SEE ALSO:
Hospital and child safety highlighted as aid talks end
The Risk Assessment: hospital team does ‘an amazing job’

St Helena Independent, 17 January 2014 (see Editorial, page 2)

Aid mission talks begin on 11 January 2014

Annual talks to agree St Helena’s settlement of aid from Britain are scheduled for 11 to 18 January 2014 – though an economist will arrive a week early for preliminary discussions. The Development Aid Planning Mission, usually referred to as “Dap’m” in speech, is the most critical event of the year for the island. Governor Mark Capes chose to call the 2013 general election for July, rather than waiting until November, to give time for new councillors to prepare for the talks. In the past, the visiting officials have offered public criticisms and advice on the conduct of island affairs.

Read the full press release here

DfID sets out to tackle St Helena diabetes and cut aid

The diabetes crisis on St Helena has been picked out as one of the main targets for action by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).

It also wants to reduce the island’s dependence on British aid.

The incidence of the killer disease is five times higher on St Helena than the global average – and rising, according to The Castle. It said one in seven people on the island had been diagnosed with the condition in the early months of 2013.

The latest DfID update on its work in the UK’s overseas territories identifies several key targets – including the building of St Helena’s airport.

It says its main objectives for the 14 overseas territories are to:

  • Reduce DFID’s contribution to total overseas territory government revenues.
  • Increase the number of students passing GCSE English and Maths by 17% in Montserrat. 
  • Increase the proportion of diabetes patients in St Helena with blood glucose levels under control from 56% to 70%.
  • Construct an airport on St Helena to improve air access.
  • Agree a way forward for the construction of a new town and port in Montserrat to improve sea access and generate tourism.

It wants to see British contribution to St Helena’s government revenues fall from 58% to 50% by 2014/15, and from 60% to a yet-to-be agreed figure for Montserrat.

Only St Helena, Montserratt and the Turks and Caicos Islands have long-term dependency on British aid.

SEE ALSO:St Helena’s diabetes crisis – story archive

LINK: Summary of DfID’s work in overseas territories, June 2013

Extra £1.4 million is proposed to boost health and schooling

Nearly one and a half million pounds of extra funding will pumped into St Helena to improve health care and education, if UK ministers accept proposals from the 2013 aid mission to the island.

That is on top of £12 million to cover the ongoing shortfall in St Helena Government’s annual budget.

The £12m amounts to a slight dip in funding – less than one per cent – but if the extra £1.4 million is approved, the island will actually see an increase in aid.

The proposal has emerged from the annual Development Assistance Planning Mission (DAPM) to the island, which has seen UK experts negotiating with a team of eight island councillors and officials.

They have agreed an aide memoire that reveals concerns that health and social services targets were not being met.

The extra funding is “to fill critical capacity gaps in essential medical services and provide support for education.”

But the mission has warned that some savings plans looked unrealistic.

It said: “We were concerned that some directorates may have suggested savings that could not be realistically achieved.”

It did not say which departments caused concern – but alarm has been raised on the island about cuts in health spending.

Savings should be made through administrative costs, not front-line services, it said.

It also saw a big opportunity to save money through more efficient procurement – buying-in of goods and services – with no progress in the past year on adopting agreed guidelines. An adviser arrived in January 2013.

The aide memoire says the mission was pleased that it had not have to agree the Grant in Aid package, except on shipping.

The mission found a “mixed” picture on the island’s home-grown economy. Work on the airport had moved quicker than expected, pushing up employment and population, but it was unclear how much this had boosted wages in the rest of the economy.

Investment in tourism had been slower than expected.

Inflation had fallen to 4%, from 6% at the beginning of 2012, but this was partly due to the weakness of the South African Rand.

Domestic revenue was forecast to rise by a million pounds over the year, to £11.3 million in 2012/13, in line with predictions.

Growth of 13% is forecast in the next two years, dipping to 10% in 2015/16.

Income tax revenue had gone up by a third (35%), driven by airport activity.

Spending was also broadly in line with forecasts, “leaving a near-balanced budget.”

The mission welcome progress on supporting economic development and said Enterprise St Helena had built a good platform to move forward on its objectives.

The government’s budget planning had improved, to fit better with the priorities of improving health, education and economic growth.

Improvement in tax collection had been “modest”, but more substantial gains were expected in 2013/14. A new computer system should improve detection of tax evaders.

“A rigorous audit of taxation returns is planned,” says the aide memoire. Fees are to be reviewed.

The aid mission welcomed plans to publish meaningful information on the government’s performance. Information on the SHG website need to be easier to understand, it said.

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