CABINET yesterday approved the sale of the 12-storey Oceana building in downtown Kingston.
The building, which started out housing a hotel in 1977 in the heart of downtown Kingston, and was leased to the Ministry of Health in 1997 to house the majority of its huge clerical and administrative staff, will now be acquired by the National Health Fund (NHF) for the price of $350 million.
The NHF was established by the Government to reduce the financial burden of health care the public sector. It has been expanding its role with the integration of the Health Corporation Limited (HCL) to form the NHF Pharmaceutical Division, which has been responsible for procurement, warehousing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for state-owned hospitals, health centres and Drug Serv Pharmacies.
It is also responsible for the operation of the ten Drug Serv Pharmacies, which dispense medication for the Government's abolition of user-fee programme, and also provides competitively priced pharmaceuticals to the Jamaican public who are filling prescriptions issued by non-government health facilities or private health care providers.
The announcement of the sale of the Oceana building follows a recent announcement by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) of plans to sell the former Jamintel building on Duke Street, downtown Kingston, to the Transport Authority (TA) to house its facilities.
It also comes at the height of public outcry against the UDC's decision to acquire a number of old buildings in the heart of downtown Kingston, which have become major financial burdens, resulting in the UDC incurring losses of over $100 million per month.
The UDC has been negotiating the disposal of several of these investments, and announced last year that it had brought discussions to an advanced stage, in terms of a number of them, including the Oceana; the Forum Complex in Portmore; the old Machado building at Victoria Avenue, East Kingston; and the old Cotton Polyester plant in Old Harbour, St Catherine. The corporation aims to collect at least $1 billion from the sale of these buildings.
The Oceana building has been on the market since 2008. It was again advertised in 2009, but no formal offer/proposal was forthcoming as investors resisted, claiming that it was overpriced. It was advertised again in June 2012 when the NHF expressed an interest in acquiring it.
Minister of Information Sandrea Falconer told yesterday's post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House that the building will need significant repairs, especially to the air-conditioning system, exterior walls and the roof and floors.