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A $380-million project aimed at using anaerobic digestion technology to construct sewage-treatment plants at six public-health facilities across the island is currently being investigated by the Ministry of Health, as the project has been dormant for more than one year.
The project was launched in mid-2014 in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining through the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
The facilities identified for the project at the time were Fellowship Health Centre in Portland; Savanna-la-Mar Hospital, Westmoreland; Noel Holmes Hospital and Lucea Health Department, Hanover; Ulster Spring Health Centre, Trelawny; Princess Margaret Hospital, St Thomas; and Percy Junor Hospital in Clarendon.
However, a recent report compiled by the National Health Fund (NHF), which funded the project, has highlighted it as one of several that have experienced implementation issues that have resulted in cost overruns.
A committee was put in place recently by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to probe these projects.
The project to improve the sewage systems at the health facilities was approved from as early as 2011, with an expected completion date of January 2016. But despite the disbursement of $324 million so far, the NHF noted that sewage system upgrades have been completed at only the Percy Junor Hospital and the Fellowship and Ulster Spring health centres.
The Sunday Gleaner was informed that while sections of the Savanna-la-Mar and the Noel Holmes hospitals have been excavated in preparation for the sewage upgrade, there has not been much work done at the facilities in recent time.
When contacted, Dr Alfred Dawes, who was appointed as the senior medical officer at the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital earlier this year, confirmed that the sewage upgrade is yet to be completed at the facility.
"It is something that I have noted has been in the pipeline apparently for some time now, and it is one of those projects that we would urgently need to address, because of the potential problems if we have a back-up of sewage," said Dawes.
The Savanna-la-Mar project was touted by then health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson as being one of the largest sewage-treatment projects in the health sector by any government.
The biodigester septic tanks, which were to be a feature of the upgraded sewage plants, were developed and patented by scientists at the SRC.