Why Did Prime Minister Arthur Turn Down A Free State Of The Art AIDS & Cancer Hospice For The Terminally Ill?
According to the local media, the Evangelical Churches of Barbados have declared a “War On AIDS“. Over at the Barbados blog “Notes From The Margin“ they are already celebrating victory in a manner worthy of a government news release…
“Today some good news arrived on Radio about the continuing fight against HIV/AIDS. In case you didn’t know Barbados has been hailed as a success in it’s response to HIV/AIDS. In fact we have been hailed as a model case.”
Barbados Minister of Health, Dr. Jerome Walcott is constantly talking about AIDS – as well he should. When he attended the first Caribbean Summit on HIV/AIDS in January of 2007, he announced that Barbados was making “some progress” thanks to a “loan” (read “never to be repaid gift”) from the World Bank.
Dr. Walcott also continually addresses the increasing costs to the health care system of which the HIV/AIDS crisis is no small part.
What do you think all of these folks would say if they knew that in 1995, the Owen Arthur government turned down the free donation of what would have been a multi-million dollar state of the art AIDS & Cancer hospice and clinic in Barbados?
Another Opportunity Lost
Frankly, we were stunned when we received information from two independent sources about the 1995 actions of Prime Minister Owen Arthur and then Minister of Health, Elizabeth Thompson in turning down the free donation of an AIDS and Cancer Hospice for Barbados.
We have seen incontrovertible proof that this happened. We know who, when, what and how… but we just don’t want to believe the why.
Owen Arthur and Liz Thompson effectively told the millionaire donor: “Barbados doesn’t need your free AIDS & Cancer Hospice. Go Away.”
The HIV/AIDS & Cancer Hospice That Owen Arthur Refused
In 1995, Canadian millionaire philanthropist Peter Allard spoke with community health leaders in Barbados and realised that our country lacked the facilities and the knowledge to effectively treat patients who were in the terminal stages of AIDS. In his typical unselfish fashion, Allard set about bringing together the community leaders and specialists who could best determine how he could help Bajans who were dying of the disease – and help their families too.
Bajans and professionals would provide the plan – Peter Allard would provide the monies necessary to fund the project much as he had done with the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.
What started off as a plan for an AIDS Hospice soon turned into a Cancer Hospice as well – as it was realized that Barbados also had no facility to look after folks who were in the end stages of cancer.
Various church leaders came on board and the Catholic Church offered to donate the land where the hospice would be built and to staff the facility with nuns. In the initial stage, the Barbados Hospice would have had 12 beds for terminal AIDS patients and 12 beds for terminal cancer patients.
Peter Allard spent tens of thousands of dollars – funding the hiring of an architect, medical and social specialists and other professionals necessary to put together the building plan, and the proposal to be put before the Health Ministry for approval.
People in the community and the health system were excited. Barbados would finally have the money to provide a hospice – a home to properly care for our friends and relatives who were dying of AIDS or cancer.
And this was to be only the first stage. After the facility was established and running smoothly, additional personnel were to be trained in preparation for increased patient capacity. Peter Allard had the money, the will and the good heart to really make a difference for terminally-ill Bajans.
(Dear God, if this cancer hospice had of been built, what a difference it would have made to Shona’s uncle and the family during his last few months.)
As the project progressed, an appointment was made weeks in advance and confirmed with then Minister of Health Elizabeth Thompson. On the appointed day and the appointed hour Mr. Allard and the various community leaders arrived at the Ministry of Health to present the proposal for the Barbados AIDS and Cancer Hospice.
Liz Thompson deliberately stood them up. She never showed.
They waited hours. Calls were made. No Minister of Health. Embarrassed officials made excuses and Mr. Allard and the community leaders left without seeing the Minister of Health or formally presenting the hospice proposal.
When no call came from the Ministry of Health to reschedule the meeting, Prime Minister Owen Arthur was contacted. “There must be some mistake” said Owen. “I’ll get back to you”.
But no calls came, and soon Peter Allard and the community leaders came to realize that there would be no Barbados AIDS and Cancer Hospice.
Why not? Why did the Owen Arthur government refuse the free donation of an AIDS and Cancer Hospice for Barbados?
My friends, the “why” that we have heard is almost unbelievable – except that this is Barbados and we believe it.
Let’s see if any of our readers can fill in a few more details of this story. Perhaps Prime Minister Owen Arthur or Minister Liz Thompson can tell their fellow citizens why this offer of a free hospice was refused?
Perhaps Prime Minister Owen Arthur or Minister Liz Thompson can inform us of what hospice facilities Barbados currently maintains for our friends and relatives who are in their last days?
Canadian Philanthropist Peter Allard
For some unexplainable reason, Canadian Peter Allard loves Barbados and Bajans.
Of that fact, there can be no dispute. Allard singlehandedly rescued the Graeme Hall mangrove forest from being turned into a wasteland, spent over US$20 million dollars to create the world class Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary and then offered to GIVE the majority of the sanctuary lands to the people of Barbados for a national park.
Allard’s generosity to Barbados did not stop with the Nature Sanctuary. He donated to the reef recovery project and the drug rehabilitation centre. There are also many individual Bajans who have received quiet help from him with medical and education costs.
The only “return” received by Peter Allard for his generosity to Barbados is his feeling that he has done some good. No plaques, awards or state dinners honour his work. Mr. Allard apparently does not seek to be honoured on this earth for the good that he does in Barbados, Guatemala, Canada and Africa.
Mr. Allard may be rich, but the treasures that he has his heart set on are obviously not of this earth. (See Matthew 6:19-21)