'Don't blame us'
SERHA denies that bungling on its part has led to a delay in construction of well-needed cardiac centre at Bustamante hospital
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr Andrei Cooke, the acting chairman of the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA), has rejected claims that its bungling has caused a delay in the construction of the much- needed cardiac centre at the Bustamante Hospital for Children.
With SERHA being accused of upsetting the private-sector entities which have pumped millions of dollars into the project and causing the delay, Cooke told The Sunday Gleaner that the project is off-limits to his organisation until it is completed and handed over.
According to Cooke, neither he nor any other board member of SERHA, and by extension the Government, has any form of control over the construction of the facility.
"So when the Government was mentioned, I could not understand," said Cooke in response to charges.
Cooke suggested that impure information was being fed to the media, but declined to elaborate.
He also declined to ascribe blame to any specific group or organisation involved in the exercise for delay that has already triggered more than $50 million in cost overruns.
Cooke said there was a pause in the construction to facilitate the procurement of equipment for the much-needed cardiac unit.
Refuting reports that he was entangled in an impasse with one of the stakeholders, Cooke said a September 5, 2014 meeting involving all parties was convened and ended on amicable grounds.
"We at SERHA have a functional committee that is providing technical oversight to facilitate the procurement of equipment. That meeting was amicable throughout," said Cooke. "I am not aware of any issue between me and any of the stakeholders."
The acting SERHA head said it will assume control and management of the facility when the construction is complete.
"We will be responsible for equipping and management. I am optimistic that the cardiac unit will be opened before the end of the year."
Between 300 and 400 children with heart problems are waiting on the completion of the cardiac unit, which is expected to be the first of its kind in the region.
The cardiac unit was scheduled to open in March but this has been stalled as the construction moves slower than anticipated with a current suspension of the work.
Last week, head of Digicel Foundation, Samantha Chan-terelle, suggested that substantial cost overruns were incurred after the parent company's donation of $100 million to build the facility.