Oct. 24, 2008 — It was a day for celebrating, for looking back at the long road to success and ahead to an exciting new era in Virgin Islands health care, as more than 200 people gathered at St. Croixs Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital for the opening of the $18.5 million Virgin Islands Cardiac Center.
It was also a day for tours of the facility, food, joking, music and lots of smiles.
The long-awaited 25,305-square-foot center has catapulted the Virgin Islands into the top tier of the Caribbean health care system — and perhaps higher, according to speakers at the ceremony.
Its a paradigm shift, said Dr. Kendall Griffith, a cardiologist and director of the VICC.
In the past, he said, people in the Virgin Islands often went to Puerto Rico for medical care.
Lets flip the switch today," Griffith said. "Instead of Crucians saying Im going to Puerto Rico for my health checkup, lets get Puerto Ricans to say 'Im going to St. Croix.
Griffith, the keynote speaker at the event, reviewed the history of the growth of cardiac services at the hospital, beginning with the hiring of the first cardiologist, Dr. Michael Potts, now chief of cardiology at the JLH, in 1991. He recounted the hospitals first cardiac catheterization procedure in 2000, and the first pacemaker insertion in 2001.
Now the hospital is opening a state-of-the-art center for cardiac care as good as any in the world, Griffith said. But its not just about a new building and a slew of high-tech machines, he said.
The goal has always been the same. When people come to the hospital on Saint Croix, they know they couldnt get better care anywhere in the world.
His goal was echoed by Potts, who looked back at the progress and said, From the point where we were so small to the point where were so big, what has remained consistent is our dedication to great patient care. We still treat every patient large and small with a commitment to providing the very best care.
The dais was crowded with a host of government, health and community figures, including Gov. John deJongh Jr., Delegate Donna Christensen, Legislature President Usie Richards, and Dr. Olaf Hendricks, the hospitals medical director.
But it was Dr. B. Waine Kong, executive vice president of the Heart Institute of the Caribbean, who put the event in a different perspective, suggesting the audience should think not only about the centers opening but also about the day when its no longer needed.
Our job is not done, he said. Cardiovascular disease is the thief that is stealing our grandparents from us. According to Kong, heart disease, the leading killer in both the United States and the Virgin Islands, is mostly preventable.
Its just another infectious disease, but the vectors are different. You learn it from your parents. You learn it from your community.
Obesity, diabetes, tension, bad diet, bad lifestyle, all contribute to heart disease and al can be changed. It may take a lot of work, and it might be unpleasant, but the result would be worth it, he said.
Being well is a hell of a lot better than being sick, and even better than being dead.
Hendricks said the opening of the cardiac center isnt the end, its a beginning. The bar has been raised for health care throughout the territory, particularly at Luis hospital.
The opening ceremonies started at 10 a.m. with speeches running until noon. Then the dignitaries cut a ceremonial ribbon opening the facility, and staff led tours throughout the afternoon. There was also food and music for the invited guests, who had contributed time, energy and money in bringing the center to fruition.
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