BLP extends olive branch after staging walkout
After staging a walkout of the House of Assembly today, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has extended an olive branch to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, saying it was willing to set aside all partisan politics and to work with his Government to resolve the current crisis at the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
During a hurriedly called media conference at her office in Parliament building today immediately following the protest by the nine BLP members who were present for the day’s sitting, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley further appealed to Prime Minister Stuart to urgently intervene in “a crisis of the highest order” at QEH, where a chronic shortage of basic and essential medical supplies has prompted doctors to treat emergency cases only.
She explained that for the sake of the country’s health, the Opposition was willing to take part in a national consultation in a bid to arrive at a medium to long-term funding solution for the cash-strapped hospital.
However, she cautioned that if the Prime Minister failed to summon all stakeholders together within a reasonable time, her party would take the initiative in doing so, while expressing fear that the country’s health care situation could worsen.
“We are in the middle of a Chikungunya epidemic in this country and cases that might not initially present themselves as critical or an emergency could become critical and an emergency, particularly among elderly people, who, if their mobility is severely affected may develop pneumonia or some other complication, as has been happening,” she pointed out.
She therefore said the Opposition was prepared to support a $25 million resolution which Minister of Health John Boyce promised at the weekend would be tabled in Parliament to help pay for supplies if the investment was buttressed by a long-term solution to funding the QEH.
“We now have to step out of our political clothes, both the Opposition and the Government, and agree to bring a solution to this matter, to put the resources necessary to assure the country that the only tertiary health care institution in this country is functioning at a level that can give all Barbadians confidence that, irrespective of their ability to have access to money, they can have health if they required it today,” said Mottley, who had earlier led members of her parliamentary group in a walkout of the House of Assembly in protest of Speaker Michael Carrington’s rejection of an Opposition motion urging the chamber to debate the hospital situation as a matter of urgent national importance.
She explained that the BLP members felt their protest action was necessary “to drive home the point that a debate on the potential for conditional release for prisoners, though being important, was being worked on . . . In fact the policy paper was finished when I was Minister of Home Affairs and I ceased being Minister of Home Affairs since 2006.
“So that a matter that waited eight years, could wait two hours, because the debate which we are asking for in the House, by the rules of the House, is no more than an hour, unless the Government agrees to extend it.”
All members of the 13-member Opposition, except St Andrew MP George Payne, St Joseph MP Dale Marshall, St James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds and St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin attended today’s press conference.