Ministers discuss Montserrat's health care, agriculture and housing plans with Diaspora

BRADES, Montserrat – The state and needs of the islands health care, education, housing and agricultural systems were the subject of Wednesday morning’s session at the Montserrat Diaspora Consultations.

Honorable Minister of Education, Health, Community Services and Sports, Mr. Colin Riley provided details on the planned construction of a new hospital for the island and the need for new models to finance Montserrat’s health care.

“We are looking at paying for health care with a different model,” Minister Riley said. The options presented by the minister included the possible development of a national insurance scheme, increasing the hospital fees which are still “below market” and introducing a new management approach to the health care system.

He also disclosed that the plans for the new hospital have been completed. They include a 44-bed facility, with options for expansion to 74; two operating theatres, a casualty with another minor surgical theatre, modern diagnostic rooms, and the technological infrastructure throughout the hospital to keep everyone connected.

The hospital, Minister Riley said is planned for completion by 2013 with the project being done in stages, which would open new buildings as early as 24 months from now.

“We are committed to reducing the rate of movement through the hospital; improving staff training and working on doctor retention strategy,” added the health minister.

Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Lands, and the Environment Mr. Easton Farrell-Taylor told the delegates that the administration was committed to providing more housing stock and the developments at Look Out and Drummonds speak to that effort. Minister Farrell-Taylor added that the department of agriculture was promoting the development of backyard gardening and farming to reduce the island’s dependency on imports.

Jonathan Pond, who represented the Preston Montserrat Association in the UK, said he hoped the government would continue to improve the island’s health care system as older people his age would not be willing to return to Montserrat if it would mean having to travel back and forth for simple medical procedures. He added that the standard of education on the island was at an extremely high standard and hoped that could be maintained. Pond said often students moving to the UK from the island were three years ahead of those there and were not being challenged in the British schools, which often lead to teachers believing they were being disruptive or had other learning difficulties.

The three-day consultation was initiated by the Office of the Chief Minister and included representatives from the Montserrat Progressive Society in New York, Toronto Montserrat Association, and the Preston Montserrat Association in the UK. Two other nationals living in the UK Diaspora also participated in the event.

A final report and a plan for more inclusion of the Diaspora in Montserrat’s development will be prepared and distributed.


Photo caption: Minister of Education, Health, Youth, Community Services, and Sports, Colin Riley speaking to delegates at the first Montserrat Diaspora Consultation held at the Montserrat Cultural Centre.