BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Wednesday June 29, 2016 – Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas is adamant that despite the denials of senior health officials, stem cell research is taking place in a private ward of the twin-island federation’s main hospital without appropriate approval.
And he’s not only calling for the operation to be discontinued until the appropriate legislation is in place, but also for Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, Health Minister Eugene Hamilton and Minister of State in the Ministry of Health, Wendy Phipps, to step down over the scandal.
Phipps has insisted that there is no stem cell research taking place at the Joseph N. France (JNF) General Hospital, only a regenerative medicine project that is being temporarily housed there. She said government has given approval to the project, involving the use of plasma-based infusion therapies, for a limited number of overseas patients.
But at a press conference yesterday, Dr. Douglas was adamant that the truth was not being told and called for an end to the project.
“Those persons who are engaged at the J. N. France General Hospital in this so-called stem cell research should not continue to perform the duties that they have been ordered to perform by the medical and health authorities unless safety procedures have been detailed, unless we can see that adequate legislation has been put in place regarding the conduct of such research activities pertaining to stem cell research or the application of therapy whatever is the application of therapy or whatever is the application that is engaged in this particular stem cell research,” the former prime minister said.
He further insisted that the general public must not use the private ward at the JNF General Hospital unless the government makes it abundantly clear that it is safe for them to do so.
Dr. Douglas said he was worried about the welfare of the nurses and other medical personnel who work at the hospital.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) has insisted that there is proof that the stem cell research exists.
It said a document circulating on social media supports a statement by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Martin that a stem cell operation was being conducted without his approval as required in the Public Health Act and the Medical Act.
The Opposition said the hospital document categorically indicates that “three rooms from the private ward will be used to facilitate the Regenerative Stem Cell Research which should begin Monday 13th June 2016.”
Dr. Martin has insisted he was forced into retirement because he voiced concerns about the fact that the operation was taking place outside the confines of regulations and the law.
He suggested that distinguishing stem cell research from regenerative medicine was merely semantics.
Regenerative medicine deals with the repair of damaged or injured cells and tissues.
“The use of stem cells is a component of regenerative medicine. You can also use other medical products that are linked with,” Dr. Martin said, adding that somebody must still be in charge of a medical operation, whether it is called regenerative or stem cell.