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A kitchen and dining hall will be constructed at the St. James Infirmary in Albion, Montego Bay.

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon Desmond McKenzie, broke ground for the construction at a ceremony on the grounds of the infirmary, on Wednesday (November 23).

The event formed part of activities to mark Local Government and Community Month 2022 Work Day.

The facility will be constructed at a cost of approximately $23 million, to be funded by the Ministry.

Mr. McKenzie said the dining area will provide a more comfortable environment for residents to eat their meals, while the kitchen will improve the working conditions of staff.

“They will have a new kitchen with state-of-the-art equipment and a dining area that is conducive for the residents to feel like somebody,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister McKenzie officially opened an aesthetically pleasing therapeutic park at the infirmary, which will facilitate recreational activities for residents that cater to their physical, psychological and social well-being.

The park, which boasts recreational spaces, a mural and water fountains, was completed at a cost of $5 million.

“This therapeutic park that we have introduced into the new concept of our infirmaries is to provide some level of tranquility. [We will] get them [residents] out of the ward, put them in a nice little area, [where] they can hear the bubbling of the fountains, they can sit in comfort and relax their minds, because a lot of these people don’t need anything other than something that is uplifting that will stimulate their minds,” Mr. McKenzie said.

Therapeutic parks have also been completed in St. Elizabeth, Trelawny and St. Mary, while parks are being built at the St. Catherine and Hanover infirmaries.

The Minister used the occasion to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to enhancing social protection for the most vulnerable and transforming the island’s infirmaries into comfortable and well-equipped facilities.

Mr. McKenzie expressed gratitude to private and public sector stakeholders who have been assisting the infirmary and homeless population.

“I want to thank the other groups in St. James for their role in helping to improve lives, especially of the homeless population. I want to thank them for their support, and I want to thank the various agencies, churches and the retired teachers for their commitment,” he added.

For his part, Mayor of Montego Bay and Chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation, Councillor Leeroy Williams, described the projects as purposeful, noting that the improvement to the infirmary will bring added comfort to residents.

“I am proud to be part of a mechanism that seeks to empower our vulnerable citizens,” he said.

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