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Hospital upgrade, construction to put St James ahead in Caribbean — Tufton

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, January 19, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Once Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) is rehabilitated and the children's hospital planned for the same premises is complete, St James will boast the highest concentration of medical services in the Caribbean, according to Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton.

The two, he said, will significantly boost health care services and the potential for health tourism in western Jamaica.

“...When all of this is completed — a rehabilitated Cornwall (Regional), a new paediatric and adolescent hospital which will take about a year and a half...two years to build, St James will have the highest concentration of medical services not just in the island but in the Caribbean, because Cornwall (Regional) will be 450 beds, (the) paediatric and adolescent [wards] another 220 — and I could give you another lecture on what that means, not for the local population but for the potential for health tourism,” Tufton said.

He was speaking Wednesday evening at the monthly members' meeting of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry held at GWest Medical Centre in Fairview, Montego Bay.

Arguing that there needs to be a 100 per cent increase in the 250 beds currently dedicated to paediatric services in the country, via Bustamante Hospital for Children, Dr Tufton told the Montego Bay business community that ground will be broken for the new children's and adolescent hospital in the first quarter of this year.

“We are well advanced in breaking ground for a new paediatric and adolescent hospital in this part of Jamaica. We are short on capacity as it relates to specialist care for kids — the younger age cohort. We have Bustamante, that's 250 beds; we need to double that capacity. So you will recall that the Chinese Government, prior to my time, made a commitment.”

“The implementation agreement has been signed. Work is to commence shortly in preparing the site, which is right beside Cornwall, [on the] same compound. It is going to be a 220-bed hospital... the first hospital we are building in Jamaica in almost 30 years, and on paper it looks amazing,” the health minister said.

He noted, meanwhile, that rehabilitation work at CRH will be intensified this year.

“This year you will see significant physical work on the building, based on where we are. You will see a continuation of our efforts to manage the needs and the demands on the system outside of the main building and of course, over time, you will see Cornwall as a much better facility when it is completed,” he told the Montego Bay business community.

In 2017, noxious fumes leaking from a faulty ventilation system forced evacuation from three lower floors of the hospital, following complaints from patients and staff. As a result, some outpatient services were moved to other locations on the premises, Falmouth Public General Hospital, and the nearby Seventh-day Adventist Jamaica Conference facility.

Indoor air-quality issues at the hospital reportedly emerged about a decade ago. In the wake of the recent reports, the Ministry of Health commissioned a detailed report which tells the story of an extremely sick building. The report was prepared in January last year, and revised and updated in March.

Cornwall Regional Hospital was built in the 1970s and the first to fifth floors were ventilated with central air conditioning. Approximately 25 years ago the system was removed and adjustments made to ensure adequate cooling using split air conditioning units. The original duct work was never removed or rehabilitated.

Dr Tufton argued that going forward he will be strongly advocating for a rigid programme of maintenance at health facilities.

“And if there is no other lesson from this experience, it is that we have to take a stronger stance on maintenance as a routine, not as an occasional occurrence. And I intend to champion that cause at the level of Cabinet and the Government, as we seek to rehabilitate the facility,” Dr Tufton said.


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