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Residents of Port Antonio in Portland will soon benefit from a retrofitted health centre, into which the United Kingdom (UK) AID has pumped US$1.3 million, under the SMART Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project, being administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Although work began in one section of the building, the launch for the retrofitting works at the health centre took place on the grounds of the facility, on Thursday (December 3).

The centre is the first of about 10 facilities that will be retrofitted to varying degrees, in keeping with the smart healthcare facilities concept.

This smart concept is designed to make existing facilities more resilient to natural hazards and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Retrofitting activities will consist of installation of a new solar system, new water faucets and fixtures, and a new fire-detection facility; construction of ramps; replacement of windows and external doors with hurricane-proof windows and doors, and replacement of all fluorescent fixtures; leaking roof and ceiling will be repaired, two of four water tanks at the facility replaced, a rain water harvesting system installed with gutters; and a new water tank with the capacity to hold 16,000 gallons of water, and a new water pump.

The retrofitting is expected to take place in the next eight months.

Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, said the retrofitted health centre will benefit some 30,000 patients per year.

“This is another very good occasion… The occasion is one that requires celebration. It’s an occasion where the Jamaican Government is benefiting from funding from the British people though UK AID and administered by PAHO… This funding is significant,” Dr. Tufton said.

“Today’s effort at putting in place an overhauling of this facility is timely, and it’s timely because it provides us with an opportunity to reset the resilience of our public health infrastructure, to reset the capacity of our people through training… so that we can adjust and become more relevant to the challenges that we face as a country,” he said.

For his part, British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Asif Ahmad, said he is happy to be a part of the project because, in some ways, it will repay an obligation he has to health workers in Portland.

“Two years ago, on my visit to Portland, just after having lunch, I fainted, and I was rushed to the hospital here for a checkup… and I had a full recovery. What it turned out to be, was the revenge of a lion fish I had eaten,” he said.

He reiterated that the aim under this programme is to make each facility not just better for patients, doctors and health care workers but also to make the building more resilient, particularly against hurricanes and other weather conditions.

“Retrofitting the way that it is being undertaken here is value for money, because by investing in water retention, renewable energy and everything else, the efficiencies actually translate into reduced operating costs, and the money that is being saved, can be used by the health centre for front-line patient care,” he said.

Parish Manager, Portland Health Services, Joan Robinson McPherson, expressed gratitude to the Government and the donors.

“For the SMART Health Care Facilities Project, I am really happy, because it means an upgrade in the facility in terms of improvement in infrastructure. I had it in my plan to renovate the facility, and now I’m getting that done. The improvements also include going green, so there will be a reduction in the overall operational cost; the electricity bill will be reduced [and] the water bill be reduced, so I am really happy for it, and I am sure that the clients will really benefit from it,” she told JIS News.

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