Gov’t to Spend up to $400 Million to Relocate Ventilation System at Cornwall Regional

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • Up to $400 million is to be spent to begin the replacement of the ventilation system at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St. James, which has been the source of noxious fumes affecting staff
  • To facilitate the works, operations at the main building of the hospital are being scaled down.
  • Activities are also under way to strengthen the facilities that will now accommodate the increased number of patients, including hospitals in Savanna-la-Mar and Falmouth as well as other medical facilities.

Up to $400 million is to be spent to begin the replacement of the ventilation system at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in St. James, which has been the source of noxious fumes affecting staff and patients.

This was disclosed by Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, while providing an update on plans to address the situation at the 43-year-old institution during Thursday’s (March 2) sitting of the Standing Finance Committee in the House of Representatives.

The Minister said that following discussions with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, an initial $300 to $400 million is to become available within the next few weeks to start the work.

To facilitate the works, operations at the main building of the hospital are being scaled down.

Already, 50 per cent of the hospital functions have been moved to other locations and there are plans, in the next two to three weeks, to relocate another 40 per cent of the operations.

“In total, there may be a need to have 10 per cent or so activity within the building because of the nature of the infrastructure that is required and the absence of that infrastructure anywhere else in the region,” the Minister said.

These, he noted, include the operating theatres; critical care wards; and diagnostic facilities, which house computed tomography (CT) scan machines that cannot be removed.

“Those are areas that we believe will have to remain, and outside of having a makeshift facility to deal with critical cases, with all the infrastructure that is required, we will have to isolate those areas and work within that context while we remove the rest of the activity to facilitate the needed repairs,” the Minister said.

 

In terms of inpatient care, Dr. Tufton noted that the facilities for student training will now be used for that purpose. This area, he said, will create a little more than 100 bed spaces. Students will be relocated to other facilities.

For the social cases, which comprise “about 36 persons literally living in the hospital”, the Minister informed that they will be removed to infirmaries, noting that other institutions have also offered to assist with additional relocations.

In response, Opposition spokesman on Health, Horace Dalley, expressed willingness to work with the Minister to find a workable solution to the situation.

He said the Opposition “fully understands the difficulties, the complex nature of that major Type ‘A’ hospital and the challenge it will take to relocate (patients, staff and services)… (and to) keep it open”.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement released this morning (March 3) by the Health Ministry, the Nurses Association of Jamaica (NAJ), Medical Association of Jamaica (MAJ), and the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association (JMDA), all parties agreed to  work together to “preserve critical areas of services at CRH, while minimising the adverse impact on staff and patients at the facility”.

The groups agreed to facilitate the isolation and cleaning of the operating theatres and adjoining ward facilities to accommodate dire surgical emergencies, and the relocation of other critical patients to alternative accommodations on the compound within three weeks.

Activities are also under way to strengthen the facilities that will now accommodate the increased number of patients, including hospitals in Savanna-la-Mar and Falmouth as well as other medical facilities.

The statement further revealed that containment measures have begun to isolate the more severely affected areas of the hospital’s main building, and alternative access points have been established.

 

The Ministry of Health has also committed to daily briefings with all stakeholders regarding any new developments.

Minister Tufton had also met with the groups last evening, shortly before making his presentation to the Standing Finance Committee.

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