Tufton says $21 billion in budget not for CRH only, but… Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Health and Wellness Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton, has sought to clarify the more than $21 billion which was reportedly estimated for rehabilitation work being carried out at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in Montego Bay, St James.

“There is an impression that $21 billion has been spent, or is to be spent, because only about (little over) $6 billion has been spent so far on the Cornwall Regional (Hospital) 10-storey building, which is the building we had to evacuate and is now in the process of significant renovating,” Tufton stated.

“This is not the case, and when I commented in the media, I said that perhaps it could have been carried slightly different in the publication that was tabled (in Parliament by the Finance Ministry),” he said.

The figure, according to Tufton, represents the strengthening of the entire Western Regional Health Authority, where CRH is just one of the health facilities there.

Tufton was responding to questions on clarity surrounding the $21 billion figure in the budget during the sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Work at the hospital has been ongoing since 2017, but the restoration works have been hampered by challenges over the years, including issues with contractors, which have delayed its completion.

Jamaicans, especially those on social media, were left baffled by the news of the estimated cost to complete the work rising to $21 billion, according to documents relative to the Estimates of Expenditure for the 2024-2025 financial year, that were tabled in Parliament last month.

Tufton said the work at CRH had been divided into two projects, the first of which involved the relocation of the services from the hospital’s main building.

 “For the first year and a half or so, a fair bit of resources was spent to relocate the services from the main building (of CRH)… It cost about $1.8 billion,” he said.

He reminded that the building had to be evacuated while it was occupied by over 450 patients.

“You couldn’t just empty the building and not have somewhere for those people to go,” Tufton pointed out.

The relocation cost did not only factor the main building alone, but costs associated with relocating the services to other health facilities in the region.

For example, Tufton said at the Falmouth Hospital in Trelawny, work was done relative to the alteration and construction of a new roof; renovation and extension of the outpatient area; issues regarding drainage; and restoration of operating theatres.

Other health services for CRH patients were established at the Mount Salem Health Clinic, which was expanded and converted into an accident and emergency ward with a minor operating theatre.

The second project of the CRH rehabilitation works is divided in various phases, Tufton reported.

In the initial stages, he said there was an air-conditioning problem, and the air-conditioning system was “secured” early.

“But then that morphed into a moisture problem, and there had to be significant changes, including replacing the roof, the electrical (items), and so on,” Tufton stated.

He said this was followed by demolition work, “because we have stripped the building down to bare minimum…, and, of course, the structural repairs (followed), and we’re now in the final phase, and that’s the figure we most recently gave prior to now, which is the $14.5 billion, which is the phase that will now do the design and build.”

That figure, said Tufton, will also include the purchase of new equipment for the hospital.

“We don’t intend to put back in the new building any old equipment, so it would be literally be a new hospital with new equipment, and that is contained in the projections also,” the minister outlined.

“So, in other words, chairman and colleagues, what the $21 billion reflects is the health system strengthening of the Western Regional Health Authority, which also includes the Cornwall Regional (Hospital) campus,” said Tufton.

At the campus, as well, he said the car park was extended to accommodate more parking, because the Western Child and Adolescent Hospital is currently under construction on the same property.

At that juncture, St Mary Central Member of Parliament (MP), Dr Morais Guy, told Tufton that he was shifting into another hospital.

However, Tufton said the point was still relevant, “because if you build another hospital beside the original hospital…, it’s two high-rise buildings on the compound – one eight floors, one 10 – (and) it means that the supporting infrastructure, which is the yard space for parking and people movement,  would have to be expanded.”

Tufton said it is important for the Jamaican people to “appreciate” that the cost for the rehabilitation of CRH has not ballooned.

“This expenditure has, in fact, expanded and strengthened the health infrastructure in the Western Regional Health Authority, because every hospital benefited from the expenditure; primarily Falmouth (Hospital), primarily the compound of Cornwall (Regional Hospital), but even Noel Holmes Hospital got benefits from this expenditure, and indeed, Savanna-la-Mar (Hospital),” he indicated.

Meanwhile, the minister said plans are still in place to start the phased occupation of sections of the main building at Cornwall Regional later this year.