Grenada and Venezuela have reached agreement for the return of the Miracle Eye Programme later this year.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the re-establishment of the programme was one of the areas of cooperation reached during a brief visit to the island Saturday by Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro.
Local health officials have indicated that more than 200 persons are already listed for specialised surgical procedures under the programme.
The new arrangement was signed by Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen and the visiting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Dr. Delcy Rodriguez Gomezs.
During the official signing ceremony at Queen’s Park, St. George’s, President Maduro lamented on his country’s contributions towards the development of healthcare in Grenada, and singled out the Miracle Eye programme as a social one that has the elements of stability and integration of the people of both countries.
This newspaper understands that the Miracle Eye programme will be executed from the redeveloped Eye ward at the General Hospital, which was funded by the Venezuelan Government under phase 2 of the General Hospital project.
Officials have said that the refurbished eye ward will have its own operating theater, a male and female ward, nurses’ station, kitchen, sluice, and visitor’s waiting area, among other stations.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell described Venezuela’s contribution to Grenada as “extraordinary,” pointing out that the agreement for the provision of eye care to Grenadian nationals by Venezuelan doctors would be “free of cost,” noting that Venezuela is also funding the construction of the new wing at the General Hospital.
“…What a noble feet indeed,” Dr. Mitchell declared.
President Nicolas Maduro also used the visit to Grenada to reiterate his country’s position on the setting up of an economic zone for the Caribbean and Latin American.
The Venezuelan leader said the economic zone should be part of a production and economic plan aimed at curbing the region’s high import bill.
He also advocated the need for the establishment of a commerce and purchase agreement with Caribbean countries.
“I insist that we need to create an economic zone in the region. We need to produce locally,” President Maduro was quoted as saying during a bilateral session with Dr. Mitchell last Saturday.
“We need to have a production and economic plan. Venezuela, with all its challenges, we are still importing billions. We need to curb this”, he said.
President Maduro suggested that the Caribbean and Latin America should work out transportation arrangements to facilitate the movement of goods and services.
“We have to establish a commerce and purchase agreement with our Caribbean friends, where we have a production planning of what products we need and what each other can supply. Let us look inward to support each other in production,” he said.
“Let us also work in transportation arrangement so we can move our goods and services in region,” he added.
The delayed arrival of President Maduro into Grenada resulted in a late start of the official MOU signing ceremony, which was scheduled to commence at 4.00 p.m. but got started just after 6.00 p.m. with a tour of the Petro Caribe Plant at Queen’s Park.
The leader in Caracas was travelling with a delegation that also included his Health Minister, Henry Ventura, and Finance Minister, Rodolfo Marco Torres.
The Queen’s Park ceremony, which climaxed his visit to the island saw a symbolic handing over of gas cylinders to the Ministry of Education for several schools in the country.
Like the recent visit to the island by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Maduro trek to the Spice Isle was again marred by poor media accommodation.
A huge tent was set up outside the gas plant to facilitate the ceremony and to provide a form of shade for invited dignitaries from the scorching sun, and THE NEW TODAY was told that all seats within the enclosure was reserved for special invited guest.
There was no specific arrangement for the media and THE NEW TODAY was directed to go to the back of the tent by an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where some rows of chairs were situated in the hot sun.
Further inquiry made by this newspaper revealed that arrangements were made only for the Government Information Service (GIS) to carry the proceedings live on national television.
During the recent visit of Prime Minister Cameron, the local media was invited to provide coverage but again it was marred by poor accommodation with only GIS getting priority treatment.