Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Did Dalley know? - Letter contradicts former health minister's account of problematic air-condition unit at Cornwall Regional Hospital

Published:Friday | February 24, 2017 | 2:12 AMRomario Scott
Dalley
Cornwall Regional Hospital
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An April 2007 letter has revealed that successive administrations knew about the problematic air conditioning unit now spouting noxious fumes affecting the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, contradicting statements from Horace Dalley, the opposition spokesman on health, that the issue first came to light in September 2016.

Last week, Dalley accused health minister Dr Christopher Tufton of being negligent for failing to act with alacrity to assuage the problem causing displacement and chaos at the St James-based facility. Tufton has said the problem has been ongoing for some 20 years and would now take millions of dollars to rectify.

The opposition spokesman stated that Tufton's pronouncements that it could take up to six months to have the problem rectified was unacceptable, and slammed him for not moving swiftly enough to have the air conditioning system repaired.

However, in 2007, during Dalley's stint as Minister of Health in the first term of the Portia Simpson Miller administration, Dr Ruth Potopsingh, then Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, wrote the health ministry seeking additional funds to overhaul and replace the central air-conditioning unit at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

...$43M was budgetted to replace A/C unit at CRH

The Gleaner has obtained an April 2007 letter, which stated that a total of $43 million was initially budgeted for a project to design and install a new air conditioning unit at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James, which has been identified as the source of the noxious fumes affecting the facility. The funds was to be taken from the $70 million Government of Jamaica Hospital Energy Efficiency Fund.

However, it was subsequently discovered that a larger 600-tonne system was needed for the type-A hospital, which would have seen the project carrying a price tag of $90 million, leading to the project being adjusted.

"... Due to budget constraints, the installation was divided into two phases, with phase one to cover the installation of 250 tonnes at an estimated cost of $38 million, and phase two to cover the remaining 350 tonnes when additional funding is available," the letter, copied to Everton Anderson, then chief executive officer at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, detailed.

PLEADED FOR FUNDS

In the letter, written by Dr Ruth Potopsingh, then Group Managing Director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) to the Ministry of Health seeking additional funding for the project, she suggested that phase one of the installation would supply air conditioning to critical areas of the hospital, such as operating theatres, while phase two would supply offices.

READ: Letter from PCJ

Dr Potopsingh pleaded with the ministry for funds to undertake the project, while at the same time warning that the PCJ could not award any contract until an additional $38.6 million was secured, having put the project to tender. Horace Dalley was the Minister of Health at that time.

"If adequate funding were available, the recommendation would be for the contract to be awarded to the lowest tender for J$76,645,976.23 ...," Dr Potopsingh noted.

Attempts made to contact Dalley yesterday for his comment on this latest revelation proved futile. The opposition spokesperson on health has been critical of the government for its handling of the problems at the hospital, which is causing severe dislocation, among other issues.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com