Health Minister denies stem cell involvement;

Minister of State with Responsibility for Health Hon. Senator Wendy C. Phipps.
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Describes hospital CMO’s retirement as ‘expected’

By a Staff Writer

Minister of State with Responsibility for Health Hon. Senator Wendy C. Phipps issued a press release on Thursday evening denying that neither the St. Kitts and Nevis government or the Joseph N. France General Hospital have engaged in any stem cell project. The release indicated that the Regenerative Medicine Project is temporarily housed at the hospital and explained the departure of JNFGH Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Patrick Martin was part of an ongoing discussion about his retirement.

Hon. Senator Phipps confirmed a research project involving the use of plasma-based infusion therapies to some overseas patients was approved by the Government. She said, as approved, the project will not extend to any residents of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“The project is a Phase 2-staged Clinical Trial of a research initiative,” Hon. Senator Phipps said, “that has already received US-Food & Drug Administration (FDA) level-one approval.”

“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.”

The release describes this initiative as part of the Government’s commitment to diversify the economy via targeted investments in medical tourism and the medical services sector. By extension, economic investments in the Federation’s health and wellness sector is inclusive of attracting cutting edge technology, research and development in the area of Regenerative Medicine, given that this is, by far, one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the global healthcare industry.

Within the past six months the Cabinet has approved two new regenerative medicine business ventures.

“One of the two regenerative medicine projects approved by this Government was originally approved by the former Douglas-led Labour Administration on March 5, 2013, via letter signed by then Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Joseph Edmeade,” the release said. “Indeed, the previous Government also secured an investment from the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) in the sum of more than $800,000 for this private venture.”

“Based on the agreement between the Government and investors, the project has been approved for temporary housing in the back of the private ward of the JNF General Hospital for a maximum period of six months, during which time the investors would be securing alternate facilities to house the project.”

Hon. Senator Phipps addressed the participation of a Brazilian expert, Dr. Silvia Lagrotta, emphasizing that the doctor 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.

The release did, however, indicate Dr. Largotta could in the future participate in the program, saying, n 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.

Dr. Martin’s retirement explained

Commenting on the departure of Dr Patrick Martin, the Federation’s Chief

Medical Officer (CMO), the Minister said, “I wish to categorically state that the tenure of Dr. Martin, aged 58, has been canvassed by Cabinet for several months. . . “When the CMO attained the retirement age of 55, and would have written on several occasions to seek continued employment. None of his letters to the previous administration were ever acknowledged.”

“When he wrote again in August 2015, following his 57th birthday in May 2015, Minister of Health, the Hon Eugene Hamilton wrote to the Permanent Secretary with instructions that the CMO remain employed until May 2016. Dr Martin therefore was well aware, since October 2015, that he was expected to demit office by the end of May 2016.”

According to the release, “In addition, Dr Martin had accumulated 356 vacation days as at the end of May 2016. His leave would therefore end on or about November 2017. He has therefore benefitted from extensions well beyond the retirement age of 55 and will be nearly 60 years of age when he officially demits office. 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.”

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