gives his views on
future in the BVI
Chief Minister Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith has decided to give his
government’s views on the “much talked about” question of Dr. Vanessa Gill’s
In a televised address Dr. Smith said that a “number of falsehoods and
distortions have been spread by those who are looking to score political points
and create a climate of instability.”
In recent month’s Leader of the Opposition Hon. Ralph T. O’Neal has been vocal
about Dr. Gill’s licence renewal and radio talk shows have seen a revival of
their popularity even though it is not an election year.
The Chief Minister said that he is glad that there is debate on this issue: “I
have followed the various talk shows with interest and am happy that thanks to
my government’s policy of freedom of speech, our people at least feel free to
express their views.”
Dr. Smith exhorted the people to avoid extreme language and make every effort to
base opinions on the facts. With freedom comes responsiblity, he said.
According to Dr. the Hon. Orlando Smith, Dr. Gill’s contract was renewed four
times although under normal circumstances “no more than two contract extensions
are permitted.”. In the year 2000 she was given permission to establish a
private practice until 21 August 2004 “for as long as she remained in the employ
Dr. Smith disclosed that Dr. Gill did not appeal through the appropriate
channels, “instead the case was taken on by the media and Opposition even before
the Minister of Health had received her request to engage in private practice or
had a chance to respond.”
“If she truly had the best interests of her patients at heart, then why didn’t
she make an appeal to government to continue to serve them? Why didn’t she work
through appropriate channels?”
STATEMENT BY CHIEF MINISTER DR. ORLANDO SMITH
Gentlemen, this is Chief Minister, Dr. Orlando Smith.
From day one,
my Government has put healthcare at the top of its agenda. We made a commitment
to the people of our Territory to make quality healthcare available to all and
we are living up to that commitment. The hospital annex continues to be built
and will soon be open for patients. Our budget provides new money for clinics in
all the Sister Islands. More importantly, we are strongly supporting young
BVIslanders who are studying medicine and other healthcare disciplines in
leading universities around the world.
Part of this
commitment to healthcare also means respecting and defending the integrity of
our system. It is in this light that we have addressed the issue of the future
of Dr. Vanessa Gill.
of Dr. Gill’s future has become the source of much talk in recent days. A number
of falsehoods and distortions have been spread by those who are looking to score
political points and create a climate of instability. So I want to use this
opportunity to present the facts and set the record straight.
First, let me
say that I am glad that this debate is happening. I have followed the various
talk shows with interest and am happy that thanks to my Government’s policy of
freedom of speech, our people at last feel free to express their views. This
kind of open and free discussion is what democracy is all about. So I encourage
you to continue to speak freely on this and any issue.
But with this
freedom comes responsibility, as well. We must all take care to avoid extreme
language and we must make every effort to base our positions on the facts.
Now, these are
the facts of this case: Around 1996, in fact during my term as Director of
Medical Services, Dr Heskith Vanterpool, who at the time served as internist at
the Hospital decided to develop his private practice. Dr. Gill was recruited to
replace Dr. Vanterpool. Since then the previous Government saw it fit to renew
Dr. Gill’s contract four times. To be clear, Government policy states
that in such situations no more than two contract extensions are permitted. This
then means that Dr. Gill has already been the beneficiary of special treatment.
year the Minister for Health was advised that the unit of internal medicine at
Peebles Hospital was significantly overstaffed by qualified internists, to the
point where the services of these specialists were grossly underutilized. Dr.
Gill’s contract was due to expire shortly.
Dr. Gill requested that she be placed on the permanent and pensionable
establishment. In the circumstances it was recommended by the Chief of Staff
that her contract not be renewed and this recommendation was accepted. It was as
simple as that.
I must make it
clear that the Chief of Staff, Dr Vanterpool, was in no position to make a
recommendation beyond Dr. Gill’s future at the Hospital. In the year 2000 the
then Minister of Health with the concurrence of Executive Council gave Dr. Gill
permission to establish a private practice until 21st August 2004 for
as long as she remained in the employ of Government. The current Minister saw
no need to change this decision and has my full support in this matter.
what has been said by persons who know better, there are three fully qualified
internists at Peebles Hospital alone, excluding Dr Gill. All of these internists
are professionals with proven track records. They have all saved the lives of
many patients, for indeed that is what they are trained to do and what they are
paid to do.
I have no
doubt that Dr. Gill is also a qualified and competent clinician. Being a
qualified doctor does not give anyone the right to any special privileges. In
medicine, competence and skill are not something to be loudly celebrated––they
are a basic expectation when a patient’s well being is on the line. Those who
speak as if Dr. Gill is the only internist in our Territory who has saved a life
are clearly exposing their true motivation for such talk, which is plainly
political. Having disregard for those many people who have been helped by other
doctors and for those who have helped them.
Now, I am not
going to hide from the fact that Dr Vanterpool is my brother-in-law but like
everyone else, Dr. Vanterpool went through Government’s hiring process and was
successful. I am proud of his accomplishments as a British Virgin Islander.
When Dr. Davies, my cousin, ended his tour as Chief of Staff, we were all
pleased and proud that another British Virgin Islander could take up this
There are a
couple of points I want to make on this matter: Firstly, with a population of
just over 20,000 people, it is impossible to find a situation where
professionals are not related and I would dare any one to tell me anything to
perhaps more significantly, I will not stand by and see this matter turn into
one where responsible BV Islanders are hurling insults at BV Islanders who were
not born in the British Virgin Islands. This kind of self-destructive behaviour
has to stop and stop now! The British Virgin Islands cannot afford to tear
itself apart through the incendiary comments of a few people who know better.
I must say
that at no time did Dr. Gill appeal through the appropriate channels, nor did
she speak to any member of my Government on the matter.
case was taken on by the media and opposition even before the Minister of Health
had received her request to engage in private practice or had a chance to
Why was this
path chosen? If she truly had the best interests of her patients at heart, then
why didn’t she make an appeal to Government to continue to serve them? Why
didn’t she work through appropriate channels?
gentlemen, I continue to monitor this situation and I will be responding to the
leader of the Opposition, who wrote to me last Monday. Above all else, we will
continue to lead toward a stronger healthcare system for all. That has been our
pledge since we were elected. That is what we have been focused on ever since
and that is what we will continue to do moving forward.
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