AUF Government Press Conference: MINISTERS SPEAK ABOUT HEALTH & INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT

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The Anguilla United Front Government held its second press conference on Tuesday, October 27, since assuming office six months ago. Mr. Evans McNiel Rogers deputised for Chief Minister, Mr. Victor Banks, who was offisland. Others at the press conference were Mr. Curtis Richardson, Minister of Infrastructure; Mr. Cardigan Connor, Parliament Secretary; and Mrs. Evalie Bradley, Ministerial Assistant in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Among the matters discussed by Mr. Rogers were his involvement in sourcing equipment for the Princess Alexandra Hospital and the general improvement of the island’s medical and health facilities and services. “With respect to health, it is no secret that I have pledged, in this five year term, to be very actively involved in the overall healthcare services in Anguilla,” he told reporters. “To that effect, just this morning, I was on a conference call with General Electric and Bio-medical International out of Miami. We were talking in terms of getting a CT Scan, a 540 model, here in Anguilla, hopefully within the next seven months, as well as the training of our technicians and technologists in the X-ray Department. We are also looking at having one of their specialists come down to Anguilla to have a look at the physical structure where the equipment will be installed…to ensure that we adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

The Minister continued: “We are doing this at a time when Government is really and truly strapped for cash, but I must say that a number of institutions have been approached with respect to contributing towards this worthy cause. These include the Social Security Board, several of the insurance companies on the island, some of the hotel projects.

“That particular piece of equipment is in the range of 550,000 US dollars and we are well on our way to raising those funds to be able to purchase that equipment because at the end of the day it will be here for all Anguillians and those individuals who visit Anguilla from time to time…

“Another issue that we are actively working on and looking forward to – and will have some serious discussion and dialogue – is the National Health Insurance. It is no secret that in our budget there is a vote that is referred to as ‘Medical Treatment Overseas’, and it seems that it doesn’t matter how many millions you put into that vote, at some point in time, during the twelve-month period, that vote will be busted. There is an increase in vehicular accidents that require air ambulances and very expensive and complicated surgeries. As a responsible Government we must be able to provide that sort of support.

“Another is when it comes to health is that I am on record in terms of raising funds…to establish and to build, a national, modern-day medical complex. To that end, I have already begun to set up a 501C43 Facility in the United States whereby some of those very wealthy individuals who visit our shores would be able to contribute to that particular cause and would be able to claim it on their tax returns. So it would be a win-win situation for all. It is quite a bit of legal paperwork that is taking place in the United States as we speak. I would like to say that the support is overwhelming in terms of that initiative going forward. To that end, I have revisited our vision and mission statement with respect to that modern-day complex…There is a whole brand new design, so to speak, in terms of healthcare and moving forward.”

Mr. Rogers, who also has responsibility for Education, expressed delight that a new eight-classroom building – the first phase of a rebuilding project at the Adrian T. Hazell Primary School – was now completed. He also spoke of improvements at the Vivien Vanterpool Primary School, at Island Harbour, among other educational matters.

Mr. Curtis Richardson, the Minister of Infrastructure, spoke about various initiatives of his ministry. These included a planned by-pass road at the Edwin Wallace Rey Drive at George Hill – down the Jeremiah Highway – for use during traffic jams at the intersection stoplight there. He said he had made contact with the landowners who agreed to facilitate the by-pass which should hopefully be in place by the end of November to ease the congestion of traffic especially at evenings. He also spoke about rectifying, with the cooperation of landowners, a number of dangerous entrances and exits along the island’s roads, and invited persons to contact the ministry with their concerns.

The Minster was pleased to announce that the desalination plant at Crocus Bay will be officially commissioned on Saturday, November 7, providing a reliable and island-wide supply of water seven days a week. “It will be a happy day for the people of Anguilla because this Government was able to solve two major problems: one having to do with facilitating the expansion of the CeBlue Hotel property; and the other one with continuing the water production there…I want to commend Mr. Chris Richardson, Mr. Mark Romney and the rest of the Water Authority Board as well as the Water Department. They have done a fantastic job and have performed on behalf of the people of Anguilla.”

Mr. Richardson spoke about his success, in 2007, for the Government to acquire six acres of land at Blowing Point for community purposes, and disclosed that negotiations were in progress to acquire an additional six acres. “I believe that the community will be happy to know that the entire property should soon be given over to the community,” he stated. “The Blowing Point playing field has to be completed. We started work on it, but may have to reconfigure a few things now that we will have more property. I have made a commitment to have the [playing field]done by the end of 2016; and if the ministry is overwhelmed, I will go ahead and find the necessary resources to get it done.”

The Clayton Lloyd International Airport was the next matter. “We have three paradigms to go forward with in terms of the airport expansion,” he went on. “Sometime in the month of November I will be asking my colleagues in Government to make a determination with me based on information I have. I will be talking to them on which one of those paradigms we should go forward with to expand and re-develop the airport. ”

Mr. Cardigan Connor spoke on his recent attendance at ‘a State of the Tourism Industry Conference’ in Jamaica – held by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation – to exchange information on the region. He was accompanied by other persons from the Anguilla Tourist Board. He was pleased to have heard from Jet Blue that challenges experienced by passengers travelling on the airline’s partner, Seaborne, were now resolved. “I think that for a number of people in Anguilla over the last couple of months, or the last year, if they tried to book a flight on Jet Blue to the US there were some challenges and issues with the connections in Puerto Rico. I am pleased to say that you can now book under one ticket and when you go on the internet you just see one ticket as opposed to having to reconnect.”

Mr. Connor continued: “One of the important things about Jet Blue is that they fly 159 flights to the Caribbean each year. That means quite a lot to us, and I think that throughout the Caribbean they seem to be the airline that probably links the islands more than any other.”

The Parliamentary Secretary, who has responsibility for Sports and Tourism, also spoke about sporting matters in Anguilla and of several of the island’s athletes who, by their outstanding performance, are helping to promote Anguilla.

He spoke about one disconcerting sporting matter as follows: “There is a situation that involves five Leeward Islands cricketers last year who were part of the pro-team – part of the Leewards franchise. There have been a number of issues over the last year, and though the players would have complained openly, those concerns were not heeded. At this stage, right now, none of those five players has been given a contract with the Leewards franchise. The ministry had a meeting with the players and also with the Anguilla Cricket Association, and it is quite disturbing about some of the issues we are faced with right now. As a ministry, we are writing to the West Indies Board and to the Leewards Board, about those concerns. We are here to protect the cricketers we have nurtured from the age of primary school all the way up. They are now committed to be professional cricketers and it is only fair that, as a ministry, we should do what is required of us.”

Mr. Connor did not disclose the names of the Anguillian cricketers nor the actual circumstances in which they found themselves.

Mrs. Evalie Bradley spoke mainly about the initial and planned on-going removal of the seaweed from a number of beaches in Anguilla. Her comments are reflected in the article, on page 10, about the clean-up effort which commenced at The Forest Bay on Tuesday this week.

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