Wed | Dec 1, 2021

WRHA targets unused schools to house social patients

Published:Thursday | September 16, 2021 | 12:05 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


WHILE DISCUSSIONS are ongoing between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), indications are that, by the end of October, 20 of the more than 60 social patients now clogging up much-needed bed spaces in the region’s hospitals will be relocated to unused school buildings.

At the end of the 2013/2014 academic year, the Ministry of Education closed some 18 primary schools across the island because their student population was too low – falling between 16 and 68 students.

“We are looking at a three to four-week period to at least see some movement there, maybe not the whole 60, but 20, and see what we can do there,” said Eric Clarke, the chairman of the WRHA, in reference to the bid to utilise the unused school building.

“Schools are a possibility. The Ministry of Education has some that are shut down. The social patients have been, and will be, a long-term problem, but I must get them out of the hospital now in order to free up bed spaces,” continued Clarke.


According to Clarke, the hunt is now on across the region covered by the WRHA to see where such facilities can be found to commence the process of relocating the social patients.

“I figure I can free up bed space so I am actively looking across the region, particularly Westmoreland and Montego Bay. Those social cases that require medical attention, we will keep those within the hospital because we have a responsibility to them,” said Clarke.

He also noted that his team at the WRHA is also looking at hotels and educational facilities that are not in use. He said contact has been made with the various chambers of commerce in the region, seeking their help in identifying suitable locations to house the social patients.

“We have been looking at closed-down schools, we have also been looking at El Greco hotel in Montego Bay, but I don’t like multistorey buildings for social patients. I prefer a flat place where we can monitor them,” explained Clarke.

According to Clarke, many of the more than 60 social patients at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James; the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital, in Westmoreland; Noel Holmes Hospital in Hanover; and the Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny do not require medical attention.

Last month, the WRHA had promised to forge a partnership with the region’s four municipal corporations in the hope of securing accommodation at the various infirmaries, but that did not materialise.