Sat | Feb 22, 2020

New 2020 timeline for CRH restoration

Published:Monday | December 16, 2019 | 12:17 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Professor Archibald McDonald
Professor Archibald McDonald

WESTERN BUREAU:

Professor Archibald McDonald, chairman of the independent oversight committee monitoring the ongoing restoration work at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay, St James, has given a new date for the completion of the multibillion-dollar project.

“Based on my observations and the information I got from the project management office, I do believe the project will be completed by the end of 2020. The cost of this project is going to end up somewhere around $3.8 to $4 billion,” McDonald said, while speaking at a press conference in Montego Bay last week.

The hospital, which was partially close after workers complained about feeling ill as a result of inhaling the fumes inside the hospital in 2017, was initially projected to return to full service last month, never met the projected timeline, much to the chagrin of those who have experienced major dislocation as a result of the scaling down of activities at the Type A hospital. The issue of noxious fumes at the institution came to national attention in September 2016 when callers to The Gleaner’s Western Bureau reported that harmful fumes were causing an uncomfortable stench inside the hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department and that medical personnel had stopped working and had vacated the area.

In the aftermath of the initial reports, several studies were done to determine the cause of the fumes. In February 2017, a team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) came to Jamaica at the invitation of the Government, to help in identifying the cause of the noxious fumes. This resulted in many of the hospital’s services being moved to other locations.

Following the PAHO visit, it was determined that fibreglass particles in the hospital’s ventilation system was the cause of the problem.While acknowledging the missed deadlines for completion of the CRH’s restoration work, McDonald said that the work has been prolonged by various new issues discovered during the project. He noted that it would cost approximately $30 billion to build a new hospital of the size of CRH. “Maybe we shouldn’t have given a deadline at the start, because the fact is that there are extensive renovations going on and you discover new things every day. You look at something today which you believe is okay and can remain, only to find out on pulling away a few boards that that entire section has to be worked on,” said McDonald.“The question is being asked, why not use the money to build a new hospital? The building is structurally sound, and the reason it is the way it is, is because of years of poor or no maintenance. The cost of a new hospital of that size is somewhere in excess of $30 billion, which I think is beyond the people of Jamaica at this time.”