In 1982, the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands received federal funds to support the construction and commissioning of the St. Croix Hospital, a 240,000 square foot facility with 250-bed capacity, located at 4007 Estate Diamond Ruby, Christiansted, St. Croix. At the time, management of the institution fell under the purview of the Department of Health, headed by the Commissioner.
Seven years later on the night of September 17, 1989, Hurricane Hugo devastated the islands and inflicted considerable structural damage to the facility. As a result, staff and patients occupied DEPMED hospital tents as a temporary measure and critical cases were transferred to Puerto Rico and the mainland. Subsequently, more suitable accommodations were needed during the renovation and repairs of the hospital, and on May 30, 1990, the St. Croix Interim Modular Hospital, a 70,000 square foot, eighty-five (85) bed facility opened on an adjacent piece of land on the south side of the original hospital building.
During the latter part of 1992, the St. Croix Government Hospital Facilities Corporation, under the chairmanship and leadership of Dr. Derrick O. Steinmann, conducted a search for a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Mr. George H. McCoy was hired as the first CEO and under his leadership the institution was granted provisional accreditation by the Joint Commission. Shortly thereafter, on September 2, 1994, Governor Alexander A. Farrelly and the 20th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands passed Act. 6012 to create the V.I. Hospital and Health Facilities Corporation.
In October 1994, the St. Croix Hospital was reopened and named the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center (affectionately known as JFL) after former Governor Juan Franciso Luis.
The following year on May 23rd & 24th, 1995, JFL was granted full three year accreditation and a a two year accreditation for the Laboratory and pathology Department. Two years later, the Laboratory and Pathology Department successfully maintained full accreditation. Four years later on July 26, 1998, JFL successfully went through a second Joint Commission accreditation survey.
Subsequently, on May 14, 1999, Governor Charles W. Turnbull and the 23rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands passed Bill No. 23-0030 “To amend Title 19, Chapter 16, Virgin Islands Code to provide for the semiautonomous administration of the V.I. Government Hospitals and Health Facilities and for other purposes” (Turnbull, 1999). The goal of the bill was to grant more freedom in the hospital’s operations with the objective of improving healthcare for residents and visitors.
This would be accomplished by, but not limited to, the following: (1) creation of a Territorial Board to address territory-wide health issues, while allowing local District Boards in St. Croix and St. Thomas to address more local health concerns; (2) allowing the institution to directly enter competitive bids on all purchases and contracts; (3) Government funds would still be appropriated for personnel services; and (4) allowing the hospital to establish and maintain separate bank accounts from the central government to fulfill all necessary obligations as well as deposit revenues, grants, and donations.
Upon the departure of Mr. McCoy, the St. Croix Governing Board underwent a second national CEO search and selected Mr. Thomas D. Robinson, FACHE from over one hundred candidates. During his tenure, JFL continued to provide quality care and successfully completed its third (3rd) Joint Commission accreditation survey with full accreditation for an additional three years.
Upon the departure of Mr. Robinson, Dr. Michael Potts was named as the interim Chief Executive Officer until the recruitment of Gregory J. Calliste, MBA as Chief Executive Officer in 2004. Under Mr. Calliste’s leadership, JFL participated in numerous unannounced and a triennial survey by the JC.
Interim Chief Executive Officer, Darice Plaskett, RN MS FACHE was appointed to lead JFL in October 2009 and remained in that position until December 2010. Under the leadership of Ms. Plaskett, JFL successfully underwent its 5th hospital-wide Joint Commission survey (May 2010).
Jeff A. Nelson joined JFL as the Chief Executive Officer in 2011 and later left the organization on January 25, 2013. Under his leadership, his vision was to move JFL towards its audacious goal, to become the most trusted, patient-family centered healthcare system in the Caribbean by 2020.
Well-known, local cardiologist Dr. Kendall Griffith was named as Interim Chief Executive Officer on January 26, 2013 after Mr. Nelson resigned, and he continued the vision to make JFL the most patient-family centered health care system in the Caribbean by 2020. Griffith was officially appointed CEO in September 2014 by JFL’s governing board. JFL’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan was developed under Dr. Griffith’s tenure, and Griffith also guided JFL through one of its most challenging times, as the hospital faced the threat of decertification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Griffith assembled the Executive leadership team currently in place, who along with the staff executed a successful CMS survey in December 2015 to maintain certification with the federal agency.
Dr. Griffith stepped down as CEO in November 2015, and Ken Oranefo Okolo, FACHE, who had been serving as JFL’s Chief Operating Officer, was named as the interim CEO by the Board. Okolo was officially appointed as JFL’s CEO in January 2016, and served in that post until May 2016 when Atty. Richard T. Evangelista was named as Okolo’s successor. Atty. Evangelista had been serving as general counsel of JFL, and in his new role as Acting CEO of JFL, he continues to work towards making JFL the best healthcare system in the Caribbean by 2020.