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.
A big reason why the Cornwall Regional Hospital fell into such expensive structural failure is the absence of effective local maintenance oversight of the billion dollar medical facility which is currently being ineffectively funded from distant central government in Kingston. This reality is a symptomatic problem of the island’s weak colonial era structured local government system which is centered on a geographically sluggish central government bureaucracy that attempts to sustain multiple resource weak/small/fragmented parish councils.
The solution lies in the effective devolution of a limited number of public infrastructure maintenance responsibilities collectively to the parish councils via fiscally and technically empowered regional county councils. These activated regional bodies would share a small portion of the current taxes that flow to central government’s coffers in order to proactively repair such obscure infrastructure as residential/rural streets and sidewalks, assist in the maintenance repair hospital/school equipment, the maintenance of public parks/beaches and sports facilities, the repair of ambulances and police vehicles via county garages as well as the collection/environmentally safe disposal all in a more timely/grassroots responsive manner that is possible from the spatially distracted central government bureaucracy in Kingston.
County councils run by a board of parish mayoral supervisors/commissioners, a small number of county designated MPs (to directly link county/parish concerns to Parliament), and selected members of civil society (e.g. chamber of commerce reps. to infuse private sector expansion revenues into the pool of county fiscal resources), would work with county planning departments, manned with high level expertise decentralized from Kingston’s many planning departments, in order to use revenues from county based General Funds to effect regional county based General (land use/environmental/infrastructure maintenance) Plans, with General Plans being in essence, formal spatial spatial development constitutional documents with which to both, a) mitigate the destructive forces and impacts of climate change (which will increasing damage roads and other public infrastructure if left unattended) and b) render the quality of life in grassroots communities, better.
Finally, fiscally and functionally empowered regional county councils, which would bring greater levels of fiscal resources and spatially focused economies of scale to directly assist in the development of rural and inner city communities, in a more timely/cost cost effective way than is possible from either spatially moribund central government or the resource limited parish councils, would also provide the basis for more meaningful local government elections, as parish/county councillors and mayors would be held DIRECTLY responsible for shortfalls in the quality of local government services delivered across the parishes and counties, come election time.