Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Ministerial Misinformation

Although Senator Green and the Council of Ministers agreed to withdraw the People’s Park from the list of options, it didn’t go to a vote. As the Minister noted:

“The Council was not divided but there was clearly pressure put on backbenchers by the campaign lobby. I can only apologise to people who did not have the chance to have their say."

This is not entirely the whole truth! While Senator Lyndon Farnham wanted the site to be kept in the consultation process, he also said he was opposed to it. The JEP also noted another unnamed Minister who was opposed. That is not precisely what I would understand as "not divided".

And there was a final bit of spin: “There were 5,000 Islanders against but 95,000 who had not yet shared their views.”. Well, there was nothing to stop those Islanders emailing the Council or setting up their own facebook group. But again, the Minister is being disingenuous. By including the whole population he is also including babies, toddlers, children under 16 without a vote. Speaking as a mathematician, that's a pretty low use of statistics.

The result meant that the Minister neatly sidestepped questions of cost, and in particular, how the dual site – put by way of comparison – had risen to £504 Million from £29 million in November 2014. That is a steep rate of inflation! I tend to agree with Deputy Richard Renouf who wanted a debate so that matters such as this could be addressed. It will be harder to get that without it.

So it is worth reprinting Jim Perchard’s letter below, which addresses the matter of costs. And looking back at the costs for the dual site, questions should also be asked.

According to the JEP, the Jersey General Hospital Manager, Helen O'Shea, said: "The Westmount Health Centre will include a fantastic new building where patients will be able to come for a single day and get all their diagnostic and outpatient appointments taken care of." So why did she change her mind? And when did she change it? Has she changed it since 2014 when she made that statement?

And this report “Re-design of Health and Social Services Scrutiny Report (S.R. 10/2014): Joint Response of the Minister for Health and Social Services and Minister for Treasury and Resources” is most interesting.

Of the dual site, we were told in gushing terms: “The Design Champion coordinated clinical engagement to test whether a dual site option was clinically safe and feasible. WS Atkins produced the SOC Addendum which reflected the dual site design developed by the Design Champion in consultation with clinicians.”

Are these the same clinicians who now think it is a bad thing? What made them change their minds so rapidly?

“The Ministerial Oversight Group Expert Panel identified a number of strengths and positive aspects of the health and social care transformation programme, including its focus on system change and progression towards a single patient record. It stated strong support for a new hospital, on dual sites,”

The Ministerial Oversight Group (MOG) was chaired by the Chief Minister, who in 2014 was none other than Chief Minister Senator Ian Gorst. The project was described as being “consistent with best practice thinking internationally”. And Senator Ozouf and Deputy Pryke also supported a dual site as the best option in positive and enthusiastic terms. Are they now going to apologise for being wrong, or do they still support all the arguments they mustered?

And finally, we have also not been told who came up with the idea for the People’s Park. Senator Green says he cannot remember. That is extraordinary. Was it not minuted somewhere, or are we talking about a casual conversation in the General Don before it was rebranded as something green and pseudo-Irish?

Here's Jim Perchard's letter. I should note that I have not made up my mind on Overdale or the Waterfront, but have no problem letting Jim's views be known.

Ministerial Misinformation
by Jim Perchard

After the islands 2014 general election Senator Andrew Green was elected as our new Health Minister. He replaced a disappointed Deputy Anne Pryke, who made it clear during her election campaign that she had unfinished business at Health and Social Services (HSS). She, with her professional advisers, had developed and costed a detailed plan for a new hospital and she wanted to see the project through.

Only months before the elections, the then Treasury Minister, Senator Philip Ozouf, to a fanfare of press releases, interviews and road-shows informed us that “£297 million will pay for the redevelopment of the existing hospital site and the extension of the Overdale Hospital”.

Deputy Pryke told us that “the plans would provide a safe, sustainable and affordable health care system for years to come." She informed us that the detailed costed plans included "8 new operating theatres", "new laboratory facilities", "a new accident and emergency department", "a refurbished maternity unit" and "single bedrooms with private bathrooms for everyone instead of old outdated wards”

The General Hospital Manager said: "The Westmount Health Centre will include a fantastic new building where patients will be able to come for a single day and get all their diagnostic and outpatient appointments taken care of."

I took the time to visit one of the road-show presentations and was informed that the two centre plans had been endorsed by the HSS senior management team, our hospital clinicians, the Treasury Minister and the Council of Ministers, Senator Ozouf informed us that the £297 Million required for the new hospital project would come from the strategic reserve. We were all systems go! The new two centre hospital project was to be delivered!

So what happened?  Well, Deputy Green was elected as Senator and was appointed Minister for HSS, he then exercised an extraordinary level of personal authority when deciding to discard Deputy Prykes detailed, costed plans and return everyone back to the drawing board.

This obvious failure of the Ministerial system now presents us with a new set of problems, to say the least! Where should a new hospital be sited? Can Jersey really afford this new price ticket, expected to exceed half a billion pounds?

I maintain that in these fragile economic times is it not prudent to spend at the levels being proposed by the Minister and it is certainly not sensible to build on treasured and extremely valuable “greenfield” land.

The public opposition to the plan to build on People’s Park cannot be ignored nor indeed can the impracticality, the long term implications and financial consequences of the proposal to build on the Waterfront. If Jersey’s economy is to prosper in the future, much will depend on a successful financial services centre and welcoming gateway to our Island.

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