Residents and friends of Virgin Gorda, Good Afternoon:
In earlier days it was the most recent doctor to join the health service who was sent to hold clinics in the sister Islands
In 1969, as a young man returning home to start my career as a medical officer, taking care of patients in Virgin Gorda was among my first duties
During those visits I often thought about what it would be like if Virgin Gorda had its own medical facility that could offer a good range of services and extended hours to its people.
I recall my several consultations with our beloved Nurse Iris O'neal in those days, as we discussed the status of various patients and whether a transfer to Peebles was needed. I would wish even more that there was at least a proper overnight clinic on Virgin Gorda.
Other people had the same idea and in 1977 a renovated Clinic was opened having been contributed to significantly by the Perlin Family form the US, a clinic where provision for overnight observation and residence for a nurse were provided
Then in 1979, when as Chief Medical Officer, I was in a position to advise Ministers on health policy, I envisioned a new Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Centre, with new services, extended operational hours, more equipment and more nurses and doctors on staff. And we did work towards making this a reality.
Many of you would remember for example that we had persons like the late Dr. Bulle living on island who made it much simpler. Subsequently we moved up to having an officer on island permanently.
As I travelled here (Virgin Gorda) to provide health care service to many patients, my desire to see a larger and modern medical facility grew even stronger.
And, the more I waited for patients to travel via boat to Peebles Hospital for emergency care, my thirst for a well-equipped medical centre on Virgin Gorda deepened even more.
As a Surgeon - one of two for many years - we took care of the people of Virgin Gorda at Peebles Hospital who needed treatment and, as always, I am pleased to see several persons I was able to help amongst us today.
As Premier and your leader, today I am pleased to be a part of this historic occasion:
Families have spoken. We heard! Patients have spoken. We listened! We know the transportation challenges you’ve endured. And, that is why we are taking swift action.
It’s about time that we reach this point to provide quality healthcare right here on island, without the need to incur the expense and hassle of emergency travel to Tortola.
In a few minutes we will sign the contract with James Todman Construction and break ground, thus signaling progress, a new beginning and a new day for Virgin Gordians.
Ladies and gentlemen, today as we break ground for the construction of this Clinic, my Government is keeping its promise to you the people of Virgin Gorda to provide you with the best health care possible. By extension we are keeping our promise to build a healthier Virgin Islands.
I wish to thank past and present staff and emergency responders for doing their part to make a difference in the lives of those who use the services of the clinic. Continue to make your contribution this community until the new facility is built and commissioned.
On behalf of the people and Government of the Virgin Islands, I express my sincerest gratitude for your commitment, insight and service to our Territory. Long may this continue!
I wish to also thank Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable W. Skelton for delivering the mandate I have given him.
I asked him to build a healthier Virgin Islands:
To modernise all government-owned medical facilities in the Territory.
To improve all healthcare services in the Territory.
To increase access to specialist doctors and expand the range of specialist services.
To extend operating services where necessary.
To find a less stressful way for residents and visitors to transfer to Tortola to access emergency services.
To implement of a National Health Insurance System to provide all residents with access to quality healthcare services.
And, to partner with the community in combating non-Communicable diseases.
And I must say, Honourable Skelton, I am proud of the work you are doing. Kudos to your team at the ministry and the Health Services Authority for helping you to deliver on your promise to me.
I also want to thank the Leader of the Opposition Honourable Ralph T. O’Neal and his team for doing their part to advance healthcare when his administration served as the Government.
And, I know that if she were here, Nurse Iris would have been pleased with this progress. As the district nurse serving until her retirement in 1976, she was indeed an advocate for the improvement of healthcare on Virgin Gorda and the sister islands.
It is my hope that the young people here on Virgin Gorda would think of ways in which they might continue to build on the legacy of this medical trailblazer. Today we reflect on what she stood for, as a community nurse caring for the needs of our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, today, to a large extent, marks the fulfilment of her vision. I am so pleased that we have reached another phase in this remarkable healthcare journey.
The Virgin Islands is growing and we must continuously prepare to meet the growing demands of our population.
Soon, we will have the medical centre that you need to operate in tandem with the new Peebles Hospital which is in full swing.
Just last Monday, my Government broke ground for the Phase V Development programme to increase our electricity supply. I said then infrastructural development is high on our agenda and, as you can see, the BVI Electricity Corporation is preparing for the new Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Centre.
In closing, people of Virgin Gorda, I can assure you that in my capacity as Premier, I will continue to ensure that healthcare, education, and indeed all social services remain high on my Government’s agenda.
I look forward to the completion of this new medical facility and the exciting day when we will can official declare the new Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Centre open!
Thank you and May God continue to bless and prosper our Virgin Islands.