Thu | Aug 17, 2017

On-and-off Portmore hospital still in pipeline, says mayor

Published:Friday | July 21, 2017 | 7:00 AMPaul Clarke
Mayor Leon Thomas

The much-talked-about hospital for Portmore, St Catherine, is still on the cards, insists Mayor Leon Thomas, with discussion around the subject said to be at an embryonic stage.

"The fact is that we have had no deep discussion about the issue, but it has been raised in a meeting at which (Health) Minister (Christopher) Tufton was involved," said Thomas.

He reasoned that as far as he knew, interest from the Cayman Islands-based firm CayJam Development Limited, with which the municipality signed a memorandum of understanding, no longer exists. He noted, however, that the issue was still a major concern for Portmore residents.

The memorandum of understanding was signed between CayJam and the Portmore Municipality, according to the company's website, to construct a Type

A hospital, which would comprise a 64- to 120-bed multi-speciality tertiary hospital, featuring the latest state-of-the-art medical equipment and information technology systems.

The cost of the project was estimated at the time to be around US$40 million (J$2.7 billion).

Thomas said, however, that the Municipal Corporation, led at the time by the late George Lee, acted as a facilitator for the investor by making sure that the approval would be smooth when the developers were ready to build.

 

MAKING IT EASIER

 

"We did that so that they were fully aware of what they had to do because you don't want the investor to come in, and when they do, they are bogged down by red tape. Taking them through the different channels was our role," said the mayor.

Thomas noted, however, that interest from CayJam cooled with the financial-sector meltdown and that there had not been any significant dialogue with the entity on the proposed construction since. But, he said, the hospital remained one of the most pressing needs for the municipality's nearly 3,000 residents.

 

'The project is still alive'

When contacted, Howard Peterson, the chief executive at CayJam, told The Gleaner that his company still had plans for the project but refused to say when those plans would be placed on the table.

"Yes, the project is still alive. In fact, it is to be much different and better than before. But I think it would be premature to open it up to the public now. There is a lot of information out there, and we had to make some adjustments, especially with George Lee's passing," he said.

"We are trying to keep everything close to the chest right now. We do not want to be premature. We have made several announcements before on the project prematurely. We do not want that this time."

Portmore residents are being served by the Spanish Town Public Hospital and the Kingston Public Hospital in Kingston.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com