Sept. 30, 2005 – Attorney Kevin Rames, who represents U.S.V.I. College of Medicine, called a press conference in his Christiansted office Thursday to get the public to help start the stalled process of bringing a medical school to St. Croix. It seems to have worked.
He told reporters he had been told by his client that if the government does not make some movement on this opportunity soon, "There will be no opportunity on which to move."
News articles were written about his appeal, and it was broadcast on the radio. By Friday afternoon, he had heard from the offices of Sens. Ronald Russell, Lorraine Berry and Terrence "Positive" Nelson. Rames said the officials were all requesting information about the plight of the proposed medical school, and he felt this was a positive sign.
Violet Anne Golden, a former senator who works as a consultant for Berry, said that as soon as Berry returns from St. Kitts, she will look into what the Legislature can do to make the medical school happen.
Rames said he is frustrated that the government has not shown the "good faith" that the U.S.V.I. College of Medicine, whose principle is Martin Olinar, has shown by putting $25 million in escrow for the project. "It is time to take money out of escrow and put concrete in the ground," Rames said. His client started the process to get a medical school on St. Croix three years ago.
The issue became muddied when an executive order was issued by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull saying there needed to be a medical school considered on St. Thomas as well as on St. Croix. However, proponents for the medical school on St. Thomas have withdrawn their plans. (See "Letter Clears Path Toward Medical School").
Rames thinks the medical school proposal should be a slam-dunk for St. Croix.
Specifically, he sees the way to forward the project is to move a bill presently before the Health and Hospitals Committee of the Legislature. Berry is sponsor of the bill.
The committee held a hearing on the bill in draft form in June. Representatives for the islands' two hospitals expressed concern about items in the measure but were overall in support of the measure. Rames said Thursday those concerns could be addressed easily. He also said his client has concerns about a Medical School Commission, created by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, not becoming simply another level of useless bureaucracy.
However, Golden was not sure about those issues being easily addressed. "You are asking us to create something in the Virgin Islands that has never been created," she said. "This bill has to be a well-crafted bill."
Rames insisted that 90 days was plenty of time for the bill to have been put in a final version.
Golden said the legal counsel, whose responsibility is to draw up bills, had priorities and could not necessarily work on this bill immediately. However, she said Berry was planning to make this bill a priority.
Sen. Neville James, a member of the Hospital Committee, said he had not contacted Rames, but it was his belief that the medical school would be a boost to the economy on St. Croix. He said he would do whatever it takes to make it happen.
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