COMMENTARY: What Opening? – Dominica News Online

COMMENTARY: What Opening? – Dominica News Online

It appears that the Roosevelt Skerrit government is shaping up to have an official “opening” of a new health facility in the village of Marigot soon. This time around it will be a health centre; on the horizon, once the faulty works can be rectified the new Marigot Hospital will be “opened”.

The question is what opening are we talking about?

If anything, maybe Skerrit is celebrating the first attempt by a government to build a health facility in the village of Marigot. Prior to now, all health facilities in the community were largely community-based efforts. The government’s only interaction with health facilities in the village had been the demolition of not one but two hospitals built by the people of Marigot with generous participation from surrounding villagers.

One hundred years ago, the people of Marigot were like the entire world reeling from the effects of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that claimed millions of lives. The records do not show if any Dominicans died as a result of the pandemic but one can imagine the trepidation, angst, and anxiety that was prevalent. At that time there was no significant health facility serving the district far less the village. A very visionary villager by the name of Martin Luther Boland embarked on a mission to build a hospital in the village. He traversed the neighbouring communities also to raise funds for the construction of the Marigot hospital.

Village historian and former Parliamentary Representative Pat Stevens shared extensive knowledge of the history of the Marigot hospital. Writing in his memoirs he stated that the hospital was built on lands donated by one Adolphus Sonny George. He further stated that the efforts to raise money was given a big boost by the intervention of a Canadian citizen Mr T B McCauley who donated £750 towards the construction of hospitals in both Marigot and Grandbay.

Local historian Dr Lennox Honychurch writing in the Marigot Heritage Day magazine in 2006 disclosed that the total cost of the hospital was £500. It should be noted that the 6-bed hospital and doctor’s residence was built by local builder named John Charles Burton whose grandson is the current parliamentary representative Mr Lennox Linton.

In 1977 a very ambitious plan to build a more modern hospital was undertaken.  Please note that this project was not driven by government but again by villagers and other communities in the north east.  The plan was to build a 25 bed hospital upstairs and other support services like labs. Operating theatre, and a maternity ward were to go on the ground floor. This project, according to Honychurch, writing in the aforementioned magazine, was to cost $400000. The project was completed with contributions from Government self-help scheme, Geest Industries, the Catholic Funds for Overseas Development (the ICM sisters played a major role in this exercise). Many villagers notably Mrs Anaclette Thomas and Mr Dudley Frank both having returned from England, made significant contributions.  In fact, Mrs Thomas was the largest individual donor and the female ward was named after her. The male ward was named after Dr Roa who was the resident doctor at the start of the project. The builder for the new hospital was Mr Thomas Davis, a Calibishie villager who took up residence in Marigot.

Once the hospital began functioning at the new site, the old hospital building was utilized as the Marigot Health Centre. Following the demolition of the old Marigot hospital the Health centre was moved to the ground floor of the Marigot hospital. After being shut down for termite infestation and surviving Hurricane Maria, the Marigot hospital was demolished to make way for the rebuilding of a more modern health facility.

Significant to note that both previous hospitals were built by local builders and the workforce was 100% local; some foreign funding but local labour.

Fast forward to 2021. The world is staring down another pandemic and the people of Marigot have no functioning health facilities.  This time though the government has initiated the building of both a health centre and a hospital.  This time though the funding for both projects is from local sources (sale of Dominican passports) and the labour and most importantly the contractors are foreign. It begs the question: Did the capacity of the village to build a third hospital diminish? Are there not competent builders, contractors if not from the village but locally who could build these facilities? Have we regressed over the past 100 years? Isn’t local money good enough for local professionals in the building industries? We are lauding the efforts of locals to plant grass and flowers whilst the lion’s share of the pie is being eaten up by foreigners? Can we no longer look on with pride at our own handiwork or is it to remind us how we have become beholden to foreign interests? What is this architectural design that assails our senses all around? Are we being programmed to accept that we cannot produce excellence?

So Labour will roll in with their crowds to their openings knowing that our eyes are shut closed to the fact that we have become subservient to foreign masters. Just now all our public buildings even our homes will look like middle eastern homes and we will have no appreciation for our local architecture. We will soon start to hate what is Dominican.

I think starting at the openings, the people of Dominica specifically those in Marigot should speak. Marigot you are the last bulwark. Save us.

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