By Chanolde Munroe
I saw an article about Luke Browne in a recent edition of a newspaper. The article was written by Maxwell Clark, and it motivated me to share my own views about our esteemed Minister of Health and his performance in that capacity. Mr. Clark’s article was entitled “Luke Browne – the Rock Star” picking up on comments made by the Taiwan Foreign Minister on a recent trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
The Foreign Minister told us that Luke Browne was a Rock Star in Taiwan as a result of his speeches at the World Health Assembly (WHA) calling for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in that forum as an observer. I am a student currently studying in Taiwan.
I could attest to the fact that Minister Browne is really and truly a celebrity over here. If you are in Taiwan and perform a Chinese Google search for “St. Vincent,” the results will basically be images of Luke Browne, references to his speeches and statements or articles about him. This makes me proud to be a Vincentian. Our little country is excelling on the world stage as a result of the actions of one of its distinguished sons.
The favourable reviews of Browne’s speeches did not only come from Taiwan’s Foreign Minister. The president of Taiwan, Her Excellency Tsai Ing-wen, had this to say on Twitter: “We truly appreciate St. Vincent and the Grenadines Health Minister Luke Browne’s staunch support of Taiwan.”
It may not be a coincidence that the Taiwan president decided to pay an official visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the immediate aftermath of Luke Browne’s electrifying speeches. We get a sense of the quality that Luke Browne, at a relatively young age, brings to the table of government. It is beyond doubt that he has the potential to make a sterling contribution to the affairs of state at the highest level. He is one for the future.
I want to spend some time discussing Luke’s performance as the Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment. Minister Browne might be shifting into campaign mode in light of the upcoming general elections, and he can do so in the sure and certain knowledge that that he has a very good Ministerial report card – A+. This fact must be of interest to the electorate and general public. Minister Browne, based on his academic record, is no stranger to high marks.
Luke Browne was given the task of leading the most difficult Ministry in the whole government. The Ministry with responsibility for health is inherently challenging. However, he has done well in all the circumstances and justified the confidence that was placed in him. He took the bull by the horns and is working valiantly to tame and subdue it. He deserves commendation.
Our Rock Star has a history of excelling at difficult assignments. This is not to say that there are no areas for improvement. We are not even trying to suggest that certain things could not have been done better. However, what is as clear as day is that Luke Browne is trying his best to make a difference and he is succeeding at it. He is not daunted by the task at hand. There are evidently many things beyond his control. But he is surely not daunted by that reality, and has the courage and strength to change the things that can be changed.
It is already established that Minister Browne by virtue of his work in health has raised the international profile of our country. Before Luke’s time, SVG’s Health Minister hardly if ever attended the WHA. On the other hand, Luke has been to all the World Health Assemblies which have taken place since he took office (four in a row), with a growing delegation and without placing a burden on state resources.
The footprint of SVG at that event has also been expanding – we make interventions on important matters, speak in plenary and this year for the first time ever SVG hosted an official WHA side event discussing our nation’s response to non-communicable diseases. The flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is flying high in Geneva and all over the world, especially now that our country has become the smallest nation ever to be elected to the Security Council of the United Nations.
In addition to raising the international profile of our country, Luke Browne will go down in history as the Minister who opened the most new healthcare facilities in the country. These facilities are making a big difference. In the last year alone we have seen the arrival of the Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre, the Chateaubelair SMART Hospital, the Levi Latham Health Complex, Staff Quarters in Union Island and the Buccament Polyclinic. These facilities have transformed the health situation in our country. The Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre, as an example, has in just one year:
- Provided Comprehensive Accident and Emergency Services
- Performed over 5,000 X-Rays and Ultrasounds with walk-in service available
- Conducted 1,000+ specialised clinics
- Attended to an average of 700 patients per month
- Done more than 300 operations
- Provided Dialysis and Chemotherapy Services
Luke Browne has also led the charge against one of the most debilitating health scourges affecting our country – non-communicable diseases. In this very budget year, the government raised taxes on tobacco products, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages and is actively promoting heightened levels of physical activity which might soon take the form of a nationwide campaign for more exercise in our communities. On this score, Minister Browne is supremely leading by example as I have observed that he maintains a rigorous weekly exercise routine himself. Browne was quoted as saying that “The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment is seeking through vigorous interventions to reduce the risk that a Vincentian will become overweight or succumb to a non-communicable disease.”
I have presented 3 aspects of Minister Browne’s legacy in the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment. I have established that he has raised the international profile of our country through his work on health, he has opened more medical/health facilities than any other health Minister and he has helped our country to make decisive progress against non-communicable diseases through systematic actions.
Be assured that there are other dimensions of his Ministerial achievements that are beyond the scope of this short article. Luke’s leadership was also reflected in the fact that at one point he served as Chairman of three important regional organisations – CARICOM Council on Human and Social Development (group of health ministers), the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and AIDS. These details help us to get a good measure of the man.
In conclusion, I consider Luke Browne to be one of our best Ministers of Government. I am proud as a Vincentian to know that he is a member of our Cabinet. It gives me confidence in the current administration. I would like to see him elected to Parliament and be described as a Rock Star in East Kingstown and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It must not be allowed to be a case of a prophet being without honour in his own homeland. Let us embrace Luke, cherish him and lift him up.