Today is a red-letter day in this Territory - a day many of us have looked forward to for some time.
I am pleased that my Government has once again delivered on its promise to you, to build a better Virgin Islands — a better healthcare system.
The opening of this new Peebles Hospital today is evidence that we have raised the bar of healthcare in this Territory, and there is no turning back!
We live in a time and a generation when science is continuously pushing the boundaries of human life.
We have gone from a world when communicable diseases like polio and tuberculosis were a global scourge, to one where these have been substantially eliminated.
We look to the future in hope that the brilliant men and women at work in labs and in hospitals around the world are on the verge of the next great breakthroughs, as new vaccines are tested.
There is every reason to believe that somewhere a new Jonas Salk will emerge with a vaccine for HIV/AIDS; or a cure for cancer; or even a cure for some other incurable disease.
The blessings of modern medicine hold the power to cure the sick – but only if the sick can afford their treatment. And, the more advanced the treatment, the more expensive it tends to be.
And so the leaders of nations around the globe are called to engage in common crusade – to not only push forward the search for new cures, but to expand access to these cures.
Today, we in the BVI take another step forward in this long and enduring march.
Today has been eagerly anticipated and is a truly auspicious occasion in the history of the British Virgin Islands as we open our new state-of-the-art Peebles Hospital!
What a tremendous journey it has been to this stage.
For decades we have been making steady progress in our healthcare delivery system.
We boast a comprehensive public health network with clinics throughout the Territory.
We saw the expansion of our medical services with the addition of specialist services at the Peebles Hospital, provided by many of our own local doctors, so that our community could be offered modern and efficient treatment.
We saw the professional growth and development of our Nurses.
In 2005, we were joined by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal as we dedicated our Annex which housed a new dialysis unit and radiological unit.
That was indeed another historic day for my Government and I am extremely pleased that we continue to move forward.
Just last year my Government, through the Ministry of Health and Social Development, accepted the keys to this new facility.
Since then, we have assiduously worked towards this day which demonstrates our commitment to providing the people of our Virgin Islands with access to affordable, high quality healthcare.
It is the Government’s business to take care of its people and over the years we have worked diligently to ensure that we achieved this.
This is progress made in improving the quality of life for our people. This is progress made in securing our economic future by reducing costs to access quality specialist healthcare services.
Many years ago, we envisioned this modern hospital, with its new services and equipment being introduced together with specialist staff - be they doctors, nurses, radiographers, nutritionists, EMTs - you name it.
So we nurtured a vision of a healthier future for our Territory, one where every health requirement could be met right here in this facility.
Today, to a large extent, marks the fulfilment of that vision.
I am very proud, yet humbled to see this great accomplishment, this remarkable milestone that we have reached.
You see, I have always felt a personal bond to this facility.
Indeed it is where I started my career as a surgeon more than forty years ago and after many years as Chief Medical Officer retired from the Public Service.
You will see then why I say in the booklet that Peebles Hospital has been an integral part of my life.
I refer to those times in the booklet and reiterate that although we did not have all of the facilities and services at the time to meet all the needs which arose, we did our best to provide quality care to our people.
The people here at this hospital are truly as dear as family as hardly a week passes when I do not have a reason to visit.
So, today we celebrate!
No longer should our people, be forced to feel the need to seek care off-island. In the old days we use to call this the “Puerto Rico Syndrome”.
I am thrilled that with our new Peebles Hospital, the same care and services will be offered right here.
Thanks to a fruitful partnership with our overseas healthcare affiliates providing regular local access to specialist services.
The New Peebles Hospital comes at a critical time.
Healthcare technology and knowledge are making enormous strides.
We live in an era where doctors and nurses have the ability to protect and extend people’s lives in ways that were unimaginable even 10 years ago.
And the benefits of these life-saving treatments go beyond the inherent value of keeping our loved ones well.
It is also critical to our economic health, as well.
A healthier population, as everybody knows, is a more productive population.
Quite simply, giving our healthcare professionals the tools they need to care for our people is a smart and strategic investment in a stronger economy.
Our most important resource is our people, and health is among the most critical factors in human development.
My Government remains committed to strengthening the health system to become even more responsive to the needs of the population.
We have embarked on a comprehensive health reform agenda, the vehicle by which we aim to empower communities, families and individuals to take control of their health, while ensuring that everyone has access to affordable, high quality treatment and care when they need it.
Along our healthcare journey over many years, the hospital has benefited from the benevolence of civic-minded organisations, businesses and the wider BVI community who ensured that our wards and units were always outfitted with the latest medical technology and services.
On behalf of the people and Government of the Virgin Islands, I extend our gratitude and we are forever thankful for the generosity shown.
I commend the Minister for Health and Social Development, Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton and his team at the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the BVI Health Services Authority for their most recent fund-raising drive through the new Peebles Hospital Pledge Programme.
But the pledges should not stop because this new facility has opened.
I encourage the public to contact the BVI Health Services Authority to find out how they can become a pledge partner with the new Peebles Hospital.
I also commend the Minister for his steadfastness and commitment to ensuring that the people of this Territory will receive the best possible care right here at Peebles.
There are those upon whose shoulders we stand as we reflect today.
I want to acknowledge the work of so many fine British Virgin Islanders who served in the early key positions of our healthcare sector and whose contributions laid the solid foundation for where we are today.
I dare not try to name them all lest I be remiss in excluding some!
But I will confine my list to just five: Nurses Adina Donavan, Geraldine Norman, and Tatica Scatliffe; and Doctors William Q. Osborne, Robert Thomas and Robin Tattersall
These health pioneers provided much needed specialist services in the areas of Gynecology, Nutrition, Family Planning, Internist/Gastroenterology, Medical Services, Nursing, Mental Health and Psychiatric Services, Primary Health Care, Laboratory Services, Health Education, Ophthalmology and so much more.
On behalf of the people and Government of the Virgin Islands, I express my sincerest gratitude for their commitment, insight and service to our Territory.
My Government stands behind the BVI Health Services Authority Board and has no doubt that they will help us take healthcare to the highest standards in the region.
I also thank want to thank the Leader of the Opposition Honourable O’Neal and his team for doing their part to advance this project when his administration served as the Government.
I also thank all those persons who have had a hand in today’s achievement, including contractors who worked to make it happen.
Partnership is important to productivity, and productivity is important to progress. And, progress is important to building a better Virgin Islands.
We are very thankful for the blessing of this New Peebles Hospital. We pray for the health and well-being of all who shall be treated here.
The reality of this red-letter day is that setbacks should never be an excuse for deterrence, but rather an opportunity to regroup and push forward.
We are not a people known for resting on our laurels. We are a people of commitment and progress.
We should never doubt our ability to make things happen because what we do today is not about us, but the future generation of this Territory who are depending on us to set the stage for the ongoing self-sufficiency of this Territory.
Thank you and may God continue to bless and prosper our Virgin Islands.