Tufton dubs Cornwall Regional as 'ancient relic'

BY ANTHONY LEWIS
Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 19, 2018

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MOUNT SALEM, St James — Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton has described the aesthetic condition of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James as an ancient relic that should have been confined to a scrap heap.

Dr Tufton made the comment on Friday here following a tour of the hospital with members of the media and health officials from his ministry and the Western Regional Health Authority.

“This building, if you look at it, even aesthetically, looks like an ancient relic, and I am not taking back my talk when I say it,” stated Dr Tufton, who continued: “Frankly speaking, it looks like an ancient relic to be confined to some sort of scrap heap when you look at it aesthetically.

“Critical services is inside. Critical players — doctors and nurses, specialist services, very good people. But when you walk and you approach the building and look at it from the back or the side, it looks like it could create or improve the depression that one may be suffering that they come into the building to get service for,” Tufton went on.

Work started on the hospital over a year ago to address what staff had referred to as noxious fumes emanating from a section of the building.

Dr Tufton, who had bemoaned the lack of maintenance over the years, noted that maintenance will have to be improved.

“You can't wait until the pipe burst in five different places to start looking at fixing it, or when mold is in the (dry) wall to start preparing, or when the broiler literally explodes on you before you start saying that it needs maintenance —and I could go on and on,” the minister expressed.

During the tour, exposed steel and crumbling concrete were observed in the basement where a boiler was located. That boiler has since been relocated to a section of the compound where a building is being constructed for it.

Dr Tufton noted that following an assessment by a technical team, a decision was taken to reinforce the base of the building. He said the remaining building is not at risk.

“So what we did when we discovered that problem, we called in the NWA (National Works Agency) engineers in the first instance, who did a preliminary examination and advised that we needed to do more work to reinforce the base, again, creating another scope of work to be done on this facility. And that will be done. A technical work, I think is being done now to do that,” Dr Tufton assured.

He further added, “the building, is not at risk now, but we have to do something about it to reinforce it. We are not suggesting that the building is going to fall down, but what we are saying, you don't leave it like that. We will have to deal with it.”

And, despite the minister's earlier description of the building for which efforts are being made to address, the minister has cautioned against spreading undue fear to the public.

The warning from the minister came two weeks after a tour of the institution by the Opposition People's National Party, led by spokesperson on health, Dr Dayton Campbell.

Vice-President of the PNP Dr Wykeham McNeill, who was also on the Opposition tour, had referred to conditions at the institution as a state of emergency.

On the other hand, Dr Campbell had stated that while there is a maintenance problem, the matter had got worse since it started.

“Two years ago the problem was limited to the third floor — between the first floor and the third floor. It has gone to additional floor now. So we can say now that the problem has got worse,” stated Dr Campbell.

However, Dr Tufton, who noted the lack of maintenance over the years, had this response: “It has come to what I describe as the perfect storm at this point in time and requires a response that has to be led by this Government and, by extension as minister of health, by myself. And we are taking it on, and we are not doing any band- aid approach. We are taking it on in a way that is fulsome and that takes a holistic approach.

“I caution those who criticise to firstly be helpful. We will accommodate the information. We will tour together. We will look at the situation together, we will discuss the challenges together, and we will try to work in the interest of the people.

“We don't want the staff, the workers to be demotivated and to feel as if the work they are doing, despite all the challenges, is not being appreciated. That is another consequence of those criticisms,” added Dr Tufton, who expressed his appreciation to all staff who have endured a lot.

Cornwall Regional Hospital is a 10-storey, 400-bed, Type A facility which was constructed and opened to the public in 1974.

The multidisciplinary specialist institution outside of Kingston and St Andrew was built to meet the total health needs of the County of Cornwall (Hanover with Type C hospital, Trelawny with type C hospital, Westmoreland with Type B hospital, and St James), hence the given name Cornwall Regional Hospital.

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