THE tender process for redevelopment of Spanish Town Hospital is being opened to local and foreign contractors, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton revealed Thursday as he launched the procedure at his ministry.
"It is an international tender so we are basically not just looking at local contractors who are competent and who qualify and follow the procedures — anybody anywhere can also apply if they are so interested," Dr Tufton said, adding "It's going to take a little while and it is going to involve several steps.
"The tender process is now ready; this is why we are here, with all agencies agreed. Construction, we anticipate, should begin in the first quarter of the new year. We are hoping that this construction will take place within two years. It has to be tightly managed and we are going to ensure that," Tufton said.
The hospital, Tufton noted, is being redeveloped at an important time for the country.
"The redevelopment of Spanish Town Hospital has come at a significant milestone in that the facility is celebrating 70 years. But, of course, for our own development as an independent country, 60 years of Independence, this is a Jamaica 60 project and will be identified as such," he said.
He pointed out that maintenance and staffing will require serious focus following the redevelopment, as those are issues with which the health sector has been struggling.
"We build buildings and we allow them to deteriorate far faster than they should because of poor maintenance, and we must accept that is a shortcoming. The intention is not to build the facility and leave it. Coming out of this experience we hope that it will also mean a better, more organised process of preventative measures so we can get the full benefit of the facility," he said.
Regarding staffing, Tufton said, "I would be less than frank if I did not accept and admit that there are concerns in that area. And these are concerns we will have to address over time because it is one thing to build and the next to operate — and part of the weakness in our public health infrastructure has been our capacity to manage. We have not, I think, put enough systems in place to attract the right people [and] train them on a continuous basis."
Meanwhile, the hospital's Acting CEO Veta McDermott told the Jamaica Observer that she is pleased with the pace of the plans being implemented for the redevelopment.
However, unlike Dr Tufton, McDermot said she is not concerned about staffing and maintenance.
"There is a steering committee which consists of a lot of persons so every Monday we meet in order to ensure that the process is seamless, so I am very confident that it will happen. Also, we are not worried about staffing. We all know where we are at and ask for the relevant assistance in order to make the transition with training and management to be as seamless as possible," she explained.
The Government of Jamaica is investing approximately $3.5 billion into the expansion project which will include a new building encompassing a modern, six-storey facility with an estimated area of 17,633 square metres.
Services such as urology, oncology, cardiology, ophthalmology and psychiatry to meet the growing needs of patients will be offered on completion.
On Thursday the health minister also lauded medical staff for their efforts following Health Care Workers' Appreciation Month which was celebrated in July.
"If it weren't for that team of 23,000 this country would be in a totally different place. And, I believe as a country we owe it to them from all quarters — from the highest level to the lowest level — to say thank you. That thank you is a sign of appreciation, of recognition and, indeed, of respect — and to do otherwise is to betray the sacrifices that they have made. July is an appropriate month and I am happy to be part of it," he said.