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Statement By The Hon Roy McTaggart, Leader of the Opposition

Government 12 Jan, 2023 Follow News

Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart

The Opening of the Mental Health Facility is Languishing

The news that Dr Marc Lockhart has resigned from the Mental Health Commission after becoming frustrated by the lack of communication from the Health Ministry should concern everyone living on these Islands.  His frustration is over the plodding pace the Government is taking to address what has been called Cayman’s mental health crisis.  In particular, the unnecessary delay in opening the needed Mental Health Facility, a lack of communication and clear plans from the Health Ministry.

I urge Minister Sabrina Turner not to let this critical project fall by the wayside, as occurred with the Waste to Energy Facility project.  In that instance, Minister Turner seemed so out of her depth that Premier Panton took over responsibility for that project in October 2021.  Regrettably, the Premier has not done any better moving forward with the Waste to Energy Project or, indeed, with the overall management of the landfill.

That said, despite the Premier’s propensity towards dithering, I would have hoped he would have pushed his Minister to get the Mental Health facility opened as planned.   In May 2022, the Government reported that the opening of the Facility was delayed until March 2023.  In the eight months since, though construction has been completed, the Facility will still not be opened in March.   Amazingly, the Government has still not provided for all that goes with starting up a facility such as this.  Including hiring staff for the facility.

It is concerning that there is still much work required to recruit and train the necessary staff for the facility, to work with families and clinicians on plans for the safe return of patients from overseas, and to develop the necessary community mental health services that will support the effective operation of the residential facility.

This is unacceptable and should be an embarrassment to the Premier, Minister Turner and the entire Government. 

The Mental Health Facility and the Waste to Energy Facility are two of the last Government’s key projects, and both were close to being completed.  They are critical to our Islands, so it pains me to see them both languish.  I pray that my comments will, as usually happens, help spur the necessary action by the Minister and the Premier.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Progressives Opposition, I would like to thank Dr Lockhart for his contributions to improving both our understanding of mental health issues and the range of services available to treat those in our community. Under his leadership, the Mental Health Commission was central to developing the business case for the new long-term residential mental health facility now built in East End.  That facility has the potential to revolutionise mental health care for Caymanians who need it while also reducing the cost of overseas placements to the Government. I have no doubt that Dr Lockhart will continue to contribute to improving mental health care across the Cayman Islands.

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