However, pressed by Newsday as to the cost and the deadline, he could not give details of either saying that such information would be premature. He explained that the project is now simply at the stage of crafting a user brief, and only after that is done can a cost and a timeline be established.
Asked if he was confident that Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, would supply the requisite funds, Deyalsingh replied, “Of course”.
Deyalsingh told Newsday this initiative comes after nothing was done from 2009 to 2015.
In his speech, he said Cabinet recently took a decision on the building’s unsafe condition as this matter was of grave concern. The six-sto- rey building was built in 1952 and houses in-patient and clinical services including 400 beds.
Deyalsingh said past studies “have cast serious doubt as to the structural integrity of the building.” A 2009 Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) report found “major deficiencies”.
“PAHO advised that the Central Block was vulnerable to distress and possibly catastrophic collapse in the event of an earthquake,” Deyalsingh said.
He said a 2014 report by engineers Arun Buch and Associates had offered two options – structural retrofitting or demolition. The Ministry of Works had recommended demolition and reconstruction, while likewise a 2017 report by Buch recommended replacing the block.
Deyalsingh said that meanwhile in recent months the Government has lessened the load on the building by decanting (that is, shifting) some beds to alternative spaces. He said Cabinet has decided to build a new block as a matter of urgency, and in a way to least impede the delivery of healthcare.
The project’s scope of works includes design, construction, outfitting and commissioning, of a facility of at least 500 beds, Deyalsingh said. The block will include Accident and Em ergency services, an operating theatre and recovery room, Intensive Care Unit, High Dependency Unit, and a mortuary and ancillary services.
He said the Ministry of Health and North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) “as a matter of urgency” will develop a user brief to use for tendering. “The Ministry of Finance will explore the funding arrangements for this critical project which must be implemented without delay.”