Take charge of Cornwall Regional, Prime Minister
Former MoBay mayor insists that Holness needs to act on sick medical facilitySunday, October 17, 2021
BY ROMARDO LYONS
Former Mayor of Montego Bay Shalman Scott wants Prime Minister Andrew Holness to step in and stop the bleeding that has been affecting the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
His demands follow the five-year delay of the $4-billion renovation project at the Type A facility and Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton earlier this month revealing that an overseas company had been brought in to help manage the project.
“It's time for the prime minister to explain to the country why is it that $4 billion have to be spent at a location to solve a problem, only to be back at square one when you had an opportunity to stop what you were doing because it was not working out and look at another alternative. You did not do that. You continued to spend. The prime minister must get involved. It cannot be left in the hands of Minister Christopher Tufton alone any longer. I am calling on the prime minister to take charge of the situation at Cornwall Regional Hospital,” Scott, a retired Jamaica Labour Party politician, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
“There is absolutely no excuse for a situation like that. It is a tough situation, and it is one that is turning out not to make any sense. In a statement that Tufton made four and a half years ago, he emphasised that it was going to take months to repair. What has happened is that it has taken years and still not repaired and has cost the country $4 billion,” Scott lamented.
Two weeks ago, Dr Tufton told the Observer that a US-based company, WSP, which has “significant hospital experience” had been brought on to act as the quality assurance agent for the project. Tufton said the Government was hoping to get standards established and maintained, as the contractors work, to “significantly reduce the variation challenges that we've had in the past.”
However, Scott is adamant that because the hospital is the main health service provider in Jamaica's western region, the Holness-led Administration should have been more proactive with the renovation efforts.
“Why do you sit down only to arrive at a point where the problem that initiated the movement of the expenditure has not been solved? Why did you spend so much? When you spent the first billion and realised that the thing is not working out, why spend more and at the end of the time, the money that has been spent has not solved the problem at the hospital? And for so long. The worse part about this is up until now, the problem has not been rectified after all that money has been spent. Where is that money?” he reasoned.
In the same breath, Scott, who also served on the board of the Urban Development Corporation, told the Sunday Observer that his stance shouldn't be taken as an attack on the Government.
“It's a long-standing problem. When the official opening was done in 1968 to start the building of Cornwall Regional Hospital, there was a controversy about the building plan which was not drawn in Jamaica. It came from one of the states in the United States that have very heavy winter,” he recalled.
“It was clear that there was going to be a problem. I was there. In 1974, I was councillor for Rose Hall where I am from. I was in the council from I was in my 20s. I then became the mayor in 1981. The signs have been there all along. In a tropical climate, having that framework was going to create problems, which is what we are experiencing now. So that was an early controversy. It was a carbon copy done by a company called The Architects Collaborative (TAC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”
For the last five years, the 10-storey, 400-bed capacity hospital has been undergoing over $4-billion worth of rehabilitation and has been reduced to carrying out operations outside its main building and, instead, in the nurses' and doctors' quarters.
According to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, “There have also been reports of indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns from the first to fourth floor since 2009 affecting the first floor — Radiotherapy; second floor — Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Laboratory and Accounting Department; third floor — Radiology; and the fourth floor — offices of the senior medical officer.”
On July 3, 2008, Scott underwent emergency surgery at Cornwall Regional Hospital after he was shot and injured while jogging in Coral Gardens in the parish. It was reported that a car drove up and one of the occupants shot him several times.
Scott said many years before these issues were recoginsed, concerns were raised.
“There have been concerns even up to the day when the ground breaking was being done. There were voices warning about the possibility that the plan being drawn up for a building to be built in a context of snow. But there was also politics involved and there was a rush to complete the hospital because when the hospital was completed in 1972, it was time for the general election. And then the Government who built the hospital, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), lost the general election when Michael Manley came to power,” he said.
Herbert Wellesley Eldemire, who served as Jamaica's first minister of health post-Independence, from 1962 to 1972, steered the construction of Cornwall Regional Hospital. Eldemire, who was from the St James North Western constituency, representing the JLP, died at age 79 in May 2010.
Moreover, the hospital was opened in 1974, two years after it was completed.
“That was because in that election, the Opposition party (People's National Party) won a landslide victory against the JLP who called the election. So, the agenda for the opening of the hospital was shifted. The people who had built the hospital were now out of power and the new government needed time to settle down. So, by 1974, there was the official opening. And by that time, the new minister of health was Dr Kenneth McNeill.”
Further, Scott said successive governments over the years also failed to address the situation.
“For a long time, nobody acted on it. And for 20 years, the hospital's system wasn't functioning.”
At the time of its establishment, he told the Sunday Observer, there was movement and growth in Jamaica's tourism sector. He said in addition to its primary objective to serve citizens, the hospital also fitted with the services that were being offered to tourists.
Scott told the Sunday Observer, however, that while the current state of the hospital doesn't reverse the strides made in Montego Bay, it still doesn't add to the progression of the region.
“It is a multi-disciplinary facility that was intended to serve the western region and to give support to the smaller units in the other four parishes in the county of Cornwall,” he said.
“The purpose for which it came about was to help to advance the progress of the region by providing the multifaceted areas of medical service. That has not been working out as the original intention when the hospital was conceived and constructed.”
Two weeks ago, Dr Delroy Fray, clinical coordinator at Cornwall Regional, told the Sunday Observer that due to the renovations being done, the hospital has employed the use of the tents.
Meanwhile, Dr Derek Harvey, senior medical officer at the facility, had said that there have been criticisms from doctors.
“The staff at Cornwall Regional Hospital, they are trying their best and making sacrifices,” Scott added. “They are trying their best under the circumstances. People are now afraid to go up to the hospital. I know of an old lady in her 90s who went up there to amputate a leg and there was no bed for her like so many other persons. And she had to sit in a chair for five days. And when they did the operation, they had to prematurely send her home. The doctors, nurses and other supportive staff are going through hell.”
Meanwhile, Dr Tufton assured that Cornwall Regional continues to provide significant services to the people.
“I pay tribute to the doctors, nurses and other health-care staff because they've been working very hard and they continue to perform thousands of tests, surgeries, dialysis, cancer treatment, in-patient care, delivery of babies weekly. All of those things continue. It's not like the facility has come to a halt, but I do appreciate that to see the main building being empty and not enough work going on is a stark reminder of the real challenges, and it does generate, understandably so, emotions and concerns,” he said.