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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, Deputy Hospital Administrator Idinga Miller, centre, and the PM's wife, Eloise Gonsalves, pose with the MRI machine on Thursday. (Photo: Facebook/NBC Radio St Vincent and the Grenadines)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, Deputy Hospital Administrator Idinga Miller, centre, and the PM’s wife, Eloise Gonsalves, pose with the MRI machine on Thursday. (Photo: Facebook/NBC Radio St Vincent and the Grenadines)
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The Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre at Georgetown celebrated its 5th anniversary on Thursday with the commission of the country’s first MRI machine, donated by the Barbados-based charity, Maria Holder Memorial Trust.

“Nations have their borders but humanitarianism does not have boundaries; countries and peoples may be rich or poor, but each person’s right to basic health service should be equally guaranteed,” Peter Symmonds, a trustee of the Maria Holder Memorial Trust, told the commissioning ceremony in Georgetown.

Symmonds announced that the trust will also donate two ambulances to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) by the end of July.

He said that although the trust is established and based in Barbados, it fully discerned the challenges and the difficulties faced by eastern Caribbean countries, including SVG, in providing health services to its citizens.

“And that’s one of the reasons we are here. We have been here and I think we’ll be here in the future as long as the trust exists,” Symmonds further stated, adding, that the trust is a charity creating longevity.

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Symmonds expressed confidence that the donation of the MRI machine will aid in strengthening the healthcare delivery to residents of SVG and neighbouring islands.

“And in our view, and I stress, that the provision of medical care is invaluable and a government should have the duty of care for each and every citizen for which, but more importantly, the MRI through its non-invasive technology will assist with scans and should help save lives.”

MRIs have played a big role in shaping the healthcare industry approach to detection, monitoring and tracking of medical conditions, Symmonds said.

Peter Symmonds
Peter Symmonds of the Barbados-based charity, Maria Holder Memorial Trust, speaking at the commissioning ceremony in Georgetown on Thursday, June 29, 2023.

He noted that since its invention in the 1970s, many improvements have been made to the MRI to increase its performance and accessibility.

“MRIs have traditionally been used as a high-end modality … and although shown extremely important for many types of clinical scenarios, it has been suggested that it’s been too expensive by some. The trust, our trusts, always feels that costs should not be a factor when it comes to the issue of lives of human beings,” Symmonds said.

“As a charitable organisation, we are aware that the provision of health care comes at a high price for some countries and some small island development states. As and this requires aid to meet these demands,” Symmonds further stated.

He continued:

“There is little doubt, and I don’t think there’ll be an argument, that the MRI machine is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools in contemporary clinical medicine. The Maria Holder Trust, therefore, does not take this donation lightly. We envision the improvements to the healthcare system and the importance of this donation in our belief cannot be measured in dollars, but rather in the value of human life.”

He did not disclose the cost of the MRI machine, saying, “I think anyone can go online and see what an MRI costs. It’s not cheap.

“But we feel that the money has been well spent. And we verily trust and believe that the MRI …  will be most helpful, useful and beneficial to the citizens and residents of this lovely country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Speaking at the same ceremony, Minister of Health, Jimmy Prince said the cost of bringing the MRI machine to SVG was EC$10 million.

“That’s not the final cost,” Prince said.

Meanwhile, Symmonds said the Maria Holder Memorial Trust is extremely passionate about assisting those in the greatest need and the vulnerable in the society.

“This philanthropic consideration has been extended to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to other OECS countries,” he said and spoke of the assistance that the trust has provided to Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, Dominica and the Virgin Islands.

“We may have been slow to start in St. Vincent,” he said, adding that the trust has been in SVG since the December 2013 flood, when “we took up the position that we needed to help with disaster relief for the Milton Cato Hospital”.

The donation then provided equipment for the Maternity and Paediatric wards, central sterilising, Accident and Emergency, the Intensive Care Unit and the Outpatient Department.

“We also provided further funding to outfit the renovated kitchen facilities at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, the purchase of approximately 130 beds and mattresses for the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre as well. And I am told that we also helped with the procurement of essential and vital medical equipment for three community birthing centres.”

Symmonds said the trust is in conversation with the National Parks Rivers and Beaches Authority with regard to parks at Black Point and Rawacou Recreational Park.

“As a result of the very unfortunate global pandemic we had recently, we also provided COVID-19 relief to St. Vincent in the purposes of procuring personal protective equipment, and small equipment to retrofit an additional facility as identified by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.”

Symmonds said the Maria Holder Memorial Trust was “pondering on and in the process of looking to assist with the rebuild” of the Health Disease Management Unit and Storage, located at Stony Ground.

“I should also mention that it’s not only the government that we have supported. We’ve also helped with NGOs in St. Vincent,” Symmonds said.

He said the Maria Holder Memorial Trust has assisted the World Pediatric Project, the Marian House youth assistance programme, the Hand2Earth prisons programme, and the Voice of the Disabled.

“We are also pondering the possibility of helping with the Lewis Punnett elderly care facility,” Symmonds further said.