Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson yesterday signed a contract valued at $73 million for the expansion of the female ward at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital. Work is to be undertaken by W.G. Walters Construction Limited and will begin in March. It is projected to last eight months.
The signing took place just weeks after work began on a $10-million project to address air-conditioning problems at the Accident and Emergency Department.
Both projects are being funded by the National Health Fund (NHF).
"It is important for us as policy-makers to take into consideration the level of services that we will need to offer to our population in planning for the future," Ferguson said. "Given the changes that we have been experiencing in the epidemiological profile of the country as well as the increase in the population, we have to ensure that the services in the health sector match those which are needed by our people."
The expansion plans started after the minister visited the hospital in November last year and witnessed the deplorable conditions, especially at the A&E, which he described then and repeated on Friday as a "parking lot" for patients.
The expansion will see the construction of 47 additional rooms for adult females, increasing the hospital's overall bed capacity by 20 per cent.
The project will also include the creation of two on-call rooms for doctors, a conference room, a staffroom and a medical department.
Ferguson added: "These developments are in keeping with the Government's commitment to ensure a patient-centred approach to health-care delivery. We have an obligation to provide health-care service in a manner that shows respect for the dignity of the people. On that, we cannot compromise. The people who use our facilities should do so in a comfortable atmosphere and must never complain about the manner in which we talk to them and treat them."
Suzzette Morris, North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) director, said the new structure will span 7,500 square feet and will be located next to the female medical ward.
"I am confident that this project will significantly improve the health-care delivery at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital," Morris said. She expressed gratitude to the minister and the NHF.