Minister of Health, Dr. Christopher Tufton has said the rehabilitation work of the Cornwall Regional Hospital and the building of the Western Children and Adolescent Hospital in Montego Bay, St. James, are going well.
He said there should be partial occupation of the Cornwall Regional Hospital building by December, 2023. This announcement was made last Friday during a tour of both hospital cites.
Tufton says upon completion of the Cornwall Regional Hospital…“people will see the highest concentration of hospital beds anywhere in the Caribbean; you’ll see more specialty operation theatres, administrative support and all the other critical things that are necessary to make for a modern hospital structure.”
The health minister said, “The staff is generally pleased with the work that is being done. The scaffolding are up, the integrity of the structure is being strengthened as is the case with this contract and the walls are being sanitized, purified and are being replaced. This phase is to make sure that the building is strong and pretty much a new building.”
Tufton said in the first quarter of 2023, he’s looking to move into the final phase of the project, which is phase III. Project Manager for the restoration project at CRH, Vivian Gordon, agreed with the minister and said they were working very hard to put things in place to stabilize the structure.
He said they have put in “all the new construction that was necessary to ensure that the spaces function well when the final phase is done. (It also) ensures that all the roofs and all the openings are properly sealed so that the space is more functional and the issues that they had before with water intrusion have been remedied. (In) phase three, the internal (structures) are going to be put in, so that is ward space, the office space, lighting and so on.”
The minister stated they are working within the 1.7 billion dollar budget for phase II. However, the phase III budget is still being finalized as well as a new contractor.
At the same time, the Western Children Hospital is progressing rapidly as the 3rd floor out of 8 has been built. In March this year, 4 floors should be completed which includes the children’s hospital and the building adjacent to it.
In addition, the foundation for the resident building, which will be located behind the Children’s Hospital, will be laid soon.
Dr. Tufton said when the children’s hospital is finished, “this is going to be a specialist institution for persons up to 18 years old. The Bustamante Hospital for Children will be supported because you have additional beds so people here don’t have to go there for certain things as they are now. The specialty around 12-18 years old …will now be lodged here for the first time in the history of the country.”
Notwithstanding the progress with the building of the children’s hospital, there are still some problems as it relates to skilled laborers.
The health minister said there is still a dire need for skilled labour.
“Very importantly, it requires skilled personnel particularly because of significant structural integrity for infection prevention and control. This is not a regular site; it is a plant with a lot of moving parts where lives depend on it. We’ve had some issues as it relates to the availability of skilled labour but I think the team has been accommodating in terms of sourcing and working with local labour.”
There are more Jamaicans on both sites than Chinese workers, but due to a shortage of skilled laborers, 13 more skilled laborers will join the team soon.