Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
The dietary services at the Bellevue Hospital were ordered closed by the Kingston and St Andrew (KSA) Public Health Department yesterday.
This comes almost a year after it was given an unsatisfactory grade by the health department when an inspection was done of the facility.
The Gleaner indicated last year that the report on the island's only facility for the mentally ill showed that the hospital failed the health inspection and was given zeros in a number of areas - some of them considered critical.
The health inspector had given the hospital zero for the presence of pests, dirt on walls, floors and ceilings.
In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Health stayed clear of revealing that the facility was closed by the health department.
The release stated that the dietary services would be outsourced as of today to allow for the expeditious completion of refurbishing work on the kitchen that has been ongoing for some time.
Four-week closure expected
The ministry said the closure was expected to last approximately four weeks.
"The refurbishing will include repairing of the roof, remeshing of windows, retiling of floors and walls, painting, repairing of equipment, including the cold-storage facilities and upgrading of the management of food waste," the release read.
But the CEO of the facility, David Dobson, confirmed that the Public Health Department recommended that the facility be closed while refurbishing work is under way.
"It was the recommendation of the Public Health Department because there has been some ongoing work, but we have got to a point where it was extremely difficult to complete the work alongside normal operation," he said.
One employee told The Gleaner that the staff in the kitchen was made aware of the situation sometime in the afternoon.
"During midday meal, they announced that Public Health closed down the dietary department and nobody is to be seen in here anytime after 3," the employee said. "They said the Public Health Department closed it down because of the situation in there not up to standard."
In deplorable condition
He claimed the kitchen was in a deplorable condition and that the authorities had previously failed to address the problem.
"It is no (fault) of the workers because the kitchen always wash a night-time, so we try our best but is because them fail to fix the infrastructure in the kitchen," the employee said.
"Roaches and rats a run up and down in here, the flooring need to fix, the roof a leak, the light need to fix, all kind a things need to be fixed and nobody turning the block a them eyes to do nothing," the employee added.
Several attempts by The Gleaner to get a comment from the Public Health Department proved unsuccessful.
Bellevue, which has "the legal responsibility to accept all persons needing psychiatric care", can currently accommodate a maximum of 800 patients.
The Bellevue Hospital, situated on 123 acres of land, was built for custodial care before antipsychotic medications were available. At its birth, the hospital was designed to accommodate nearly 3,000 patients. That number was reduced to 1,500 in 1990, and then to 800.