Additional cost to taxpayers for CRHFriday, November 19, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
MONTEGO BAY, St James — With $1.4 billion spent and five years of delays, taxpayers will have to find an additional $1.6 billion for the penultimate phase of work being done on problem-plagued Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) in this city.
This phase, which Health and Wellness Minster Dr Christopher Tufton said got Cabinet approval a week and a half ago, will include the stripping of the building and securing of the structure. Efforts are being made to start preparation work before Christmas so that work can begin in earnest in January. The contractor is M&M Construction.
During a contract signing yesterday, Tufton conceded that criticism and concerns about cost overruns and delays that have plagued the project are justified. Work is now expected to be completed by 2022. The original completion date of 2020 was missed, partly as a result of fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The minister warned that, at some point, questions would have to be answered about the stewardship of the project.
“The other things that we have to manage are the time and cost overrun. I am telling you, it doesn't look good on paper up to this point, and it is not unique to any contractor, it is right across the board. At some point we are going to have to answer to the parliamentary process as to why these cost overruns have occurred. I have challenged the project manager and the commissioning agent that every cost overrun and time overrun must be absolutely justified, otherwise we take whatever action is necessary, because I am not going to be the one to explain to people why, at this point, we are spending the taxpayers' money and not getting what they expect from it,” Tufton said.
“Part of it may be how we define the work, part of it may be the new challenges that we pick up… but we have to manage that, because up to this point we have had too much of it, and maybe it would have cost that anyway if project assessment and costing were done in a different way,” he added.
Noting that the hospital is a victim of neglect, he reiterated that when the team started, almost five years ago, the original issue had to do with air quality, followed by mould, leaks, leaking pipes, electrical issues, and structural damage to the building and its foundation. He also spoke to the fact that the building is old.
“So it morphed into a bigger problem which, if we had hopefully seen at that time, perhaps, the course taken would be a lot different,” stated Tufton, who said he is hoping the lessons learned will prevent a repeat of a similar situation.
The project, he said, has now become a case study on “how not to treat a hospital or Government infrastructure”.
“We are hoping that [from] those lessons learned we now have a clearer path to the rehabilitation and completion of Cornwall Regional Hospital,” he said before outlining a revised road map for the completion of the project.
He explained that there is now a clear path and, as such, the Government is confident that the project can be completed.
Apart from the additional spending, he said, Cabinet has given approval for engaging in emergency procurement arrangements for the completion of the project. This is something for which the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), and other residents of the western city have been asking.
“The intention here is to recognise the timelines that are involved, to try and shrink that timeline so that we can get to a date of completion within a much shorter period than would have been allowed,” explained the minister.
MBCCI President Janet Silvera agreed with Tufton's assessment of the reduced time frame.
“As a chamber that has time and time again called for something concrete to happen to Cornwall Regional Hospital, we feel that the minister has made the right move, and we want to thank him and the Cabinet for listening to us,” she said yesterday.
“We had a meeting, a very private meeting, and these are things that we had discussed in the meeting, that we wanted the hospital to be an emergency project. So, as a chamber, we are pleased.”
Dr Tufton also said a review is currently being done of the project management team.
In addition, the Professor Archibald McDonald-led oversight team will be merged with the recently implemented MBCCI oversight team. Also, state minister in the local government ministry and Member of Parliament (MP) for St James Southern Homer Davis — who is a former mayor of Montego Bay — will be joining the oversight team. This was welcomed by the MBCCI.
Silvera said she is pleased to know that the group will be independent and will be able to speak out if something is going wrong.
Meanwhile, Dr Tufton noted that in the upcoming months the project will be a “complex construction site that will require all hands on deck”.
He said there will be two active work sites — the 10-storey CRH building rehabilitation work and the construction of the long-awaited $5.7-billion six-storey Western Children and Adolescent Hospital — as well as an active hospital that will provide patient care on the same compound at the time.
The Children and Adolescent Hospital, which is being built by the Chinese Government, was on hold because of the pandemic.