CRH to accept some patients by December
An outside view of the Cornwall Regional Hospital shows a completed and painted right half of the building. (Photos: Anthony Lewis)

MOUNT SALEM, St James — Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is hoping the problem-plagued Cornwall Regional Hospital will be able to accept patients, on a limited basis, by December.

"We are hoping that by the end of this year, 2023, we can see partial occupation — not full occupation, because it's going to take some time. The biggest challenge, having secured integrity of the structure, is now to ensure that the finer details of the internals are dealt with… But, it will look and feel like a new building," he assured.

Tufton was giving the media an update on rehabilitation work being done on the building during a tour of the facility on Friday.

He pointed out that a lot of work had been done on the second phase of the project over the Christmas holidays. He said the hope is to begin the final phase in the third quarter of this year.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton (third left), members of the Western Regional Health Authority, and the contractor team looking at a section of the Cornwall Regional Hospital which now has its roof installed.

"We're hoping to move into the final phase, which is phase three where the internals are going to be put in. So, that is the ward space, the office space, the lighting and so on. What this phase is, is to make sure that the building is strong and is pretty much a new building — and that's what we're hoping for," stated Tufton.

The minister noted that while work on the current phase is still within budget, costing for the final phase is still being worked out as it will be influenced by the design of the facility and materials used. According to Tufton, those were factors assessed by a team of clinicians and technicians who recently returned from a trip to China.

There is keen interest in when the facility will finally be able to open its doors to the public, as well as the final price tag.

In November 2021 the Jamaica Observer reported that $1.4 billion was spent over the five years of delays experienced on the project. At that time it was also disclosed that taxpayers will have to find an additional $1.6 billion for the penultimate phase of work being done and that the completion date had been pushed back to 2022. The original completion date of 2020 was missed, partly as a result of fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You are not going to see any signs of a reminder of what Cornwall used to be. You are going to see a brand new Cornwall Regional Hospital, that's the intention, and I am a lot more confident now, having had a lot of starts and stops. And, we have learned many lessons," Tufton said Friday during a ceremony to hand over four ambulances valued at $48 million

"We are still in a delicate stage but we have to manage that. Cornwall Regional is going to become one of the most significant institutions in Jamaica and the Caribbean, serving the people of western Jamaica. And I say, 'Just hold the faith. It is happening;" he promised.

BY ANTHONY LEWIS Observer writer

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