Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Rains set back completion of COVID-19 field hospitals

Published:Tuesday | November 24, 2020 | 12:09 AMLeon Jackson/Gleaner Writer
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

Western Bureau:

It would appear that the plan for the two COVID-19 field hospitals on the grounds of the St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston and the Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny will not be completed according to the projected deadlines as the recent rains that have lashed the island have hampered work on both projects.

In September, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced that the two field hospitals would be built to increase bed space to accommodate COVID-19 cases. He said the two field hospitals would be fitted out with 36 beds each to meet a November 30 completion date.

However, in an interview with The Gleaner, Richard Rogers, the contractor for the project, said he had written to the project manager, seeking an extension to the completion date as the recent rains had hampered work on the field hospitals, resulting in the project falling behind the timeline that had been projected.

“When the rain started, I wrote to the project manager, asking for a first extension,” said Rogers. “I have since written another extension request because the rain has continued longer than I expected.”

With the rains still an issue, Rogers said it was not possible at this time to commit to a completion date. As it relates to Falmouth, he said the rains have had a positive impact in terms of how it would affect the facility when it is completed.

“In the case of Falmouth, some good has come out of the rain. We are able to see how the area is affected by rain. This allows us to ensure that accessibility will be problem free,” said Roger.

Sean Parham, the director of civil works at the Ministry of Health, told The Gleaner that the rains have seriously set back their timetable for the field hospital, which, without the rains, would be on the verge of completion.

‘Elements against us’

“The elements have been against us,” said Parham, whose frustration was obvious as he spoke. “It has caused us to think of how best the construction can be completed as early as possible.”

Parham said that the idea of working around the clock had come up for consideration,had but issues such as the COVID-19 curfew and the Noise Abatement Act had ruled out that idea.

“One suggestion was to work night and day- but that had to be shelved because we must bear in mind that the people in the hospital are entitled to comfortable rest as they recover from whatever ails them,” said Parham.

The field hospitals, which are being built in collaboration with a bilateral partner, will be equipped to operate autonomously and will include a high-efficiency particulate air and ultraviolet light air-scrubber system, two diesel generators, and eight air-conditioning units.

When the COVID-19 situation is contained and life returns to normal, Tufton said the Falmouth Hospital would benefit from the additional bed space.