Sat | Apr 4, 2020

Tufton eyes 50-room MoBay hotel for COVID-19

Published:Friday | March 27, 2020 | 12:22 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Half of the 100 COVID-19 isolation rooms needed by the Western Regional Health Authority have been identified in Montego Bay, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has said.

The Government is seeking to rent, in the short term, 600 rooms as part of a national response plan to mitigate against the pandemic.

“We have a facility in Montego Bay, which is about 50 rooms, offered to us by a hotelier, which we are now retrofitting, [and] which will suit the purposes we are anticipating for [in] the 600 rooms,” said Tufton, responding to a question from The Gleaner at Wednesday’s online COVID-19 press conference via Zoom.

Tufton said that several other offers were substandard or posed logistical challenges. Room costs were also disqualifying factors.

“We still have a fairly long way to go in identifying those 600 rooms. It’s not just about the rooms, it’s also about where they are located because we want to place them strategically, so access, depending on where persons are, can be relatively easy and that the management and manning of these facilities can also be efficient,” said Tufton.

“The required rooms are fundamental to the response plan that we have, particularly going into a period of community spread … ,” said Tufton.

Should the Government fail in its voluntary room-raising initiative, Tufton said he was prepared to exercise his powers under the Disaster Risk Management Act through compulsory acquisition to house the recovering patients.

“If we are not getting that cooperation [of the private sector], then there is always the possibility of triggering the law under the emergency powers that exist,” Tufton said.

However, he said compulsory acquisition would be a last resort.