TAIPEI, Taiwan: The Minister of Health in St. Vincent and the Grenadines says that while he would prefer to bow out of electoral politics, a final decision will be made in consultation with his party.
Dr. Douglas Slater is into the final year of a second consecutive five-year terms as parliamentary representative for South Leeward in south-western St. Vincent.
His Unity Labour Party (ULP), led by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, will by the end of next year face the Vincentian electorate for a third consecutive term in office.
(Listen to Dr. Slater talk about SVG’s constitution referendum at the end of this post)
Slater is the second ULP parliamentarian to speak of quitting politics.
Constituency representative for West St. George and Minister of National Mobilization this earlier this year said he will follow through on his decision to quit electoral politics for health reason.
Slater told I Witness-News on Wednesday that a final decision will be made after considering several factors.
“… I am a part of a team. I am part of a party and that decision, in the long run, will be made after a holistic assessment of several things, including the party’s input, the constituency’s input and, of course, my personal position,” he said during an interview here in Taipei.
Slater was here to attend a meeting of high level health officials from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies and other Asian nations.
The physician, who had worked in the public health system before entering politics, said that the health care service in SVG has improved over the years.
He credited the health care professionals, “who, with limited resources, have been delivering a very satisfactory service”.
When Slater became Minister of Health, the scarcity of health care personnel and nurses was “the major concern”.
He was “proud” of his administration’s managed-migration initiative that saw the state training 100 nurses annually and giving those it is unable to employ the option of working overseas.
SVG has exported nurses to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, Slater said, adding that it was estimated that the United States would have a shortage of one million registered nurses in 2020.
He mentioned among the greatest achievement of the Ministry of Health under his leadership “some stability to the whole healthcare professional industry”.
His administration introduced several news services, including local pathologists, improved and specialist eye care, and other specialist services and equipment, including a paediatric surgeon.
“Myself being a physician and having worked in the system, I think I would be fair to say that I had an intimate understanding of the needs of the healthcare workers,” he said.
“They wanted to be in a working environment where they can do their work better to serve the people better and I think we have been able to do that.”
Referendum a ‘steep order’
Slater also spoke about the constitutional reform exercise in SVG and his government’s campaign for a two-thirds majority “yes” vote on November 25.
He said that that requirement was a “steep order”, especially with the opposition New Democratic Party campaigning for a “no” vote and the parties having the support of about 55 percent and 45 percent of the electorate, respectively.
“I don’t think we have reached the political maturity enough yet in the general population to easily expect that person will vote objectively for something like the constitution indifferent to their party,” he said.
He added: “We are hoping and we are optimistic because as we go with the yes campaign, we are putting a lot of emphasis on information and educating the general public. And we are seeing the response being very positive. However, to be realistic, we know that it is going to be difficult because there may still be a tendency of voting along party lines.”
(Listen to Dr. Slater’s full comments on the constitution referendum)