Minister of State Responsible For Health Dispels Disgruntled, Baseless Claims

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JUNE 25TH, 2016 (PRESS SEC) – Minister of State with responsibility for the nation’s healthcare, the Honourable Wendy C. Phipps issued a statement on behalf of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis Thursday night, in relation to the regenerative medicine project that is being temporarily housed at the Joseph N. France General Hospital.

The Minister of State also addressed the departure of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Patrick Martin, dispelling his claims that his retirement was precipitated because he voiced objections to both a) alleged stem cell research at JNF that he said was being done without his approval, and b) a non-resident medical doctor performing the alleged stem cell research despite not having a license to practice in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“As Minister of State with Responsibility for Health I wish to state categorically that neither the Ministry of Health nor the JNF General Hospital is engaged in any stem cell project,” Senator Phipps said in countering Dr. Martin’s first allegation. Honourable Phipps added that, “Government has given approval to a research project involving the use of plasma-based infusion therapies, to a limited number of overseas patients. The project, as approved, will not extend to any residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is a Phase 2-staged Clinical Trial of a research initiative that has already received US-Food & Drug Administration (FDA) level one approval. The private sector partners of the project include the St. Kitts Marriott (Royal Plastics Group); St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation – in an advisory capacity; Canadian businessman, Mr Kevin Klein; and two other investors, including a Brazilian medical group.”

In countering Dr. Martin’s second allegation, the Minister of State explained that, “A Brazilian expert, Dr Silvia Lagrotta, who is attached to the project DOES NOT AND HAS NOT EVER administered any therapies to ANY patients in St. Kitts and Nevis. Her presence thus far has been strictly limited to observing the process as a representative of the investor group’s Brazilian partner.”

Minister Phipps continued: “In anticipation that Dr Lagrotta will be professionally engaged during the life of this project, her medical credentials have been submitted in the normal course for approval to function within the Federation as a medical practitioner consistent with the laws and regulations of the Federation…In light of these facts, it is extremely unfortunate that Dr Martin has sought to link his retirement to alleged stem cell research when he knows that there is no stem cell research currently occurring in the Federation and he fully understands that his retirement should have been initiated since May 2016.”

The Minister of State with responsibility for health, the Honourable Wendy C. Phipps, explained that Dr. Martin was aware of his pending retirement, having read the correspondence from the Minister of Health, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, instructing that he proceed on leave in May 2016.

In this crucial correspondence that supports the Government’s side, Honourable Eugene Hamilton wrote to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Andrew Skerritt, “with instructions that the CMO remain employed until May 2016,” Honourable Phipps said in Thursday’s statement.

Dr. Patrick Martin turned 58 years old in May 2016. The retirement age in the civil service is 55 years old.

The CMO told WINNFM last week that, “At age 55, I wrote to the Permanent Secretary indicating that I was 55 and that according to the rules I should report that I am 55, and that I am desirous of continuing. There was no reply…but the civil service rules require the officer to write, so I wrote. The civil service rules also require a response within a specific time. I think the time is seven days of each letter being received. No response.”

Two months before Dr. Martin’s 52nd birthday, the then-Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said during his 2010 Budget Address on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 that his administration would begin to enforce the official age of retirement before year-end. “Dr. Denzil Douglas said that while his administration had tried to accommodate requests from civil servants to continue in the government’s employ beyond age fifty-five, the situation was no longer sustainable,” a WINNFM news article published on March 24th, 2010 reported.

“All persons who have reached the age of retirement or who make a decision to take early retirement will be requested to utilize their services in a more productive manner by seeking alternative employment in our expanding private sector or by taking advantage of the many opportunities for entrepreneurship that abound in our economy,” the then-Prime Minister said.

“Only in very rare circumstances where it is determined that persons possess particular skills that cannot be obtained elsewhere in the Public Sector that persons will be hired on contract in a consultancy or advisory capacity for a specific period or on a job basis if applicable and justifiable…Therefore, by September 2010 all Civil Servants who have reached retirement age and are still working month to month will be formally required to retire,” the then-Prime Minister added.

One can only speculate that the then-Prime Minister’s very firm proclamation in his 2010 Budget Address had a role to play in why Dr. Martin’s letter three years later, stating that he had reached the civil service retirement age of 55 but was desirous of continuing in his position, went unanswered.

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