MONTEGO BAY, St James — Opposition Senator Janice Allen is calling on Government to name the US$43-million Western Children and Adolescent Hospital, now under construction on the grounds of the Cornwall Regional Hospital, in honour of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
In June 2017, Simpson Miller, Jamaica's first female prime minister and former president of the People's National Party (PNP), affectionately called Sista P, exited the political arena, 43 years after her entrance as a councillor in the then Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC).
Speaking on Saturday at the PNP's St James West Central constituency conference held at the Granville Primary School, Senator Allen, who is expected to challenge sitting Member of Parliament Marlene Malahoo Forte for the seat when the next general election is called, served warning that she will be unrelenting in her lobby for the western hospital to be named in honour of Simpson Miller.
In 2019 ground was broken for the construction of the 220-bed facility, which is a gift from the Government of the People's Republic of China. It will be the first of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean, offering medical care for youngsters up to age 18 years.
Funding for the project is being provided under an Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement, which was signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, New Kingston, by portfolio minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, on behalf of the Jamaican Government and then China's Ambassador to Jamaica Tian Qi.
During the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility in October 2019, Prime Minister Andrew Holness argued that "credit must be given where credit is due" and praised former Prime Minister Simpson Miller for initiating the partnership with the Chinese Government for the construction of the public health-care facility.
Senator Allen echoed similar sentiments.
"I see the minister of health again make big to-do about starting the work again on the children's hospital. The same children's hospital that when Portia Simpson Miller went to China to negotiate for Jamaica, the Labour Party had it to say that she must Skype instead of going on a plane. But now they want to take claim for it. But I shall be the pitchary in the johncrow back because that hospital must be named Portia Simpson Miller Hospital," Allen remarked.
"And we are not going to ease up, because I am not easing up."
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Horace Chang, however, noted that "at this time" no consideration has been given to the naming of the facility, which is now being constructed, adding that the Chinese Government has not yet officially handed over the facility to the Jamaican Government.
At the ground-breaking ceremony, it was announced that the facility is scheduled for completion two years thereafter.
But the novel coronavirus pandemic resulted in a halt to the construction, pushing back the deadline.
Last month, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced the resumption of work on his social media page.
"Construction on the Western Regional Children and Adolescent Hospital has resumed after a break due to COVID-19," he said.
"I am excited and happy for this project to be completed because I know it will be a welcomed addition and a game-changer for public health," he added.
The construction of the facility will be the first hospital to be built in the country in two decades.
Meanwhile, speaking also at the PNP St James West Central conference on the weekend, former PNP candidate Henry McCurdy championed the cause for December 12 to be declared Portia Simpson Miller Day. December 12 is Simpson Miller's birthday.
"When you [parliamentarians present at conference] go back to Kingston and sit in the honourable House, ask the Government to declare December 12 Portia Simpson Miller Day," said McCurdy, who is an attorney.
He used the occasion to blast Comrades for "not celebrating Simpson Miller" since she departed representational politics.
"Comrades, it is sad she has left the scene from 2017 and we as Comrades have not celebrated with her. Comrades, we need to celebrate the first female prime minister of this country, Comrade Portia Simpson Miller," McCurdy stressed.
"And it is sad because people asking who to become hero, who fi turn heroine, but nobody remember our beloved Sister P. Comrades, as a result of what I have just said, we as a party need to apologise to Comrade Portia Simpson Miller for all the wrongs we have done to her.
"Rent out the National Stadium and have a celebration there for her, whether she can come or not. We need to celebrate our beloved Comrade."