The ruling National Democratic Congress in St. George’s is exploring potential collaborations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to elevate the islands’ public healthcare services after participating in a landmark Saudi Arabia/CARICOM summit last week.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell made the announcement at a press conference in St. George’s on Wednesday. He was among Caribbean leaders that travelled to the nation’s capital Riyadh, for the first-ever meeting between Saudi Arabia and CARICOM countries, which was held on November 16th, as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to strengthen bilateral alliances to diversify its income sources.
During his visit, the Grenadian leader had the unique opportunity to tour Saudi Arabia’s renowned virtual hospital, one (1) of only two (2) in existence worldwide. This has sparked ideas for the administration’s proposed medical and teaching hospital, to be built on lands identified in the Calivigny, St. George area.
Expressing admiration for the innovative use of technology, Prime Minister Mitchell commended Saudi Arabian government for its commitment to saving lives through the virtual healthcare facility. He highlighted the remarkable potential of modern technology to provide medical care to citizens who might otherwise lack access, citing the challenges of remoteness and critical medical conditions.
“It was to some extent a mind-blowing experience because it demonstrates how you can truly leverage modern technology to provide medical care and attention so citizens, that otherwise may simply just not have access to it either because of the remoteness of their location, or the critical nature of the injury that they may be suffering that may require immediate attention…” PM Mitchell remarked.
He commended the use of data within the virtual hospital to track health trends, showcasing Saudi Arabia’s forward-thinking approach. “So, we recognise that we are not just seeking investment or investors to assist us with the construction of our teaching hospital as part of our overall medical strategy, but we do recognise that we have to tackle the challenges that we face in our primary healthcare system,” The Prime Minister said.
“And, the virtual hospital, not just the virtual hospital, the policy initiatives, the technology that we were exposed to, give us the opportunity to seriously consider partnering with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to assist us in that area,” he further remarked.
Indicating a willingness to explore collaborations, PM Mitchell revealed that Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Health has extended an invitation to host a technical team from Grenada, “so that we can explore further the possibility of collaborating with them in relation to the virtual hospital and how they have been able to use it as a tool to enhance the services of citizens to Saudi Arabia.”
“We have on offer from them, memoranda of understanding, in particular, to allow technical teams from Grenada to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so that we can have further conversations in relation to policy, guidance, advise potential investment as well as opportunity for training, technology exchange and information,” the Grenadian leader added.
His administration’s pursuit of these strategic partnerships and investments signals a significant leap forward in advancing the nation’s healthcare infrastructure.
As part of its transformative agenda, the Dickon Mitchell-led regime has secured 90 acres of land, which is envisioned to house a modern state-of-the-art facility to be the centerpiece of the development of the Education, Health, and Wellness sectors, and designed to encourage the development of specialised private health clinics and health-related enterprises within the campus.
EC$5 million has been allocated in the 2023 Budget for phase one of the project. The money, according to the estimates, is to support the foundational activities of the project, which will be undertaken in collaboration with St George’s University (SGU).
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Andall, who accompanied the Prime Minister at Wednesday’s media engagement said, the Republic of “China is also willing to provide technical and financial support, whether it be in the form of concessionary financing or grants or a combination thereof to our teaching hospital upon submission of proposals to them.”
Minister Andall, who held talks with China’s National Agency for International Development and Cooperation during a recent visit to China said, the Chinese “are also quite keen to assist with the training of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, considering that having a building is not sufficient to say that you have a teaching hospital.”
As the government takes significant strides towards advancing the country’s healthcare infrastructure, these partnerships and investments signal a transformative period for the health and wellness sectors.