One of the country’s national heroes will again be cemented into history today when the public hospital is renamed in his honour.
Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC) will officially be renamed the Sir Lester Bird Mount St John’s Medical Centre.
Government first declared its intentions to name the hospital after the former athlete and prime minister in 2018.
It reiterated that again in January this year during Governor General Sir Rodney Williams’ delivery of the Throne Speech.
Since the announcement, there has been a lot of public discussion as residents queried why the hospital would be named after a politician instead of a medical practitioner, like the late Sir Prince Ramsey.
“He could not even finish the hospital – now it is being renamed after him? Give me a break,” said one lady.
“Why are we always looking to rename places after politicians; no one else is fitting of that right?” asked another.
Both opposition parties – the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) – have also weighed in on the issue, saying that Sir Lester has received enough accolades for his contribution to the country. They also accused the ABLP-led government of turning national institutions into party institutions.
However, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst referred to the objections as “foolishness”. He said the 2018 decision was made in an attempt to create “monuments that would tell the story of our past”.
Sir Lester, Hurst said, conceptualised the new medical facility after he had been a patient at the former Holberton Hospital.
According to Hurst, Sir Lester then decided to source funding from China and approached leading medical minds to be part of the initiative.
He added that renaming the hospital was “a fitting tribute” for Sir Lester.
Sir Lester, 83, served as the second prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda from 1994 to 2004. He was chairman of the then Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and was also the deputy prime minister to his father, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, and became prime minister when Sir VC resigned.
The MSJMC opened in 2009 under the UPP administration, which took office in 2004.
The renaming ceremony will take place at the quadrangle in front of MSJMC at 10am today.