By DENISE MAYCOCK Tribune Freeport Reporter email@example.com FREEPORT: The new $12 million Accident and Emergency urgent care centre and new operating theatre and day surgical unit were officially opened by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday, completing the first phase of a multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Rand Memorial Hospital. The new upgraded A&E department now comprises a modernised, fully-equipped urgent care centre; two major theaters, and a minor theatre; an endoscopy room and a central sterile supplies department. Although disappointed it has taken so long for the first phase to be completed, Mr Ingraham believes it is a significant milestone in the advancement of medical care for residents of Grand Bahama and the northern Bahamas. "This milestone is a part of my government's plan for social development generally, and for the expansion of quality and accessibility to health care for all Bahamians. "For some time, one of the most pressing healthcare needs for the people of Grand Bahama and the northern Bahamas was to significantly enhance our second city's major healthcare facility," he said. Minister of Health Dr Hubert Minnis, Herbert Brown, managing director of the Public Hospital's Authority, and Veta Brown, chairman of PHA, were also present. During his address, Mr Ingraham noted it was during the FNM government's second term in office and while Dr Ronald Knowles was Minister of Health, that his government commissioned an extensive review of its national health care facilities, including the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport. The government received a report, referred to within the public sector as the Dorsette Report, in December, 1999. The Dorrette Report, which was accepted by FNM government, proposed the Rand Memorial Hospital be redeveloped and upgraded over a seven to 10-year period. The Prime Minister said they commenced planning, but were not returned to office in 2002. "Our absence from government for five years had consequences for Grand Bahama. The recommendations of the Dorsette Report were shelved for five years, notwithstanding that the Minister of Health in the government which replaced us was a resident of Grand Bahama," he said. "Upon our return to office we took up where we had left off in May 2002. And so what we are commissioning today is a part of what we proposed and planned to do for you some 10 years ago." Mr Ingraham said he was aware there was a preference for the construction of a new hospital in Grand Bahama, but they decided to follow recommendations in the Dorsette Report advising redevelopment of the present site. He stated that the report had recommended that the A&E department and outpatient clinic should be the first stage of redevelopment. The A&E urgent care centre has doubled its previous size from 3,900 to 8,200 sq ft. The new facility includes: a trauma bay to accommodate two critically ill patients; a six-bedded treatment bay with one specially designed to accommodate required isolation; five examination rooms including one for gynecological cases; a treatment room; an asthma bay to accommodate four patients; and an orthopedic casting room. It also includes doctors/nurses offices; a psychiatric holding room; a staff lounge; a waiting room to accommodate in excess of 55 persons; staff and patient bathrooms, including bathrooms specifically designed to accommodate disabled patients; specialised security screening area; special handicap ramps; secured ambulance emergency area. The operating theatres have been increased in size from a 3,500 sq ft, one theatre facility, to an 8,500 sq ft facility with two Class C operating theatres; one Class B minor procedure/endoscopy theatre and one Induction Room. According to Mr Ingraham, the new facilities, with internet-enabled connection to the Princess Margaret Hospital for consultation and education purposes, will bring the Rand into the 21 century of critical care. He also noted that there is need for the recruitment and training of some 69 persons at the Rand. Already 31 persons have been engaged, and Mr Ingraham anticipates an additional 38 persons will be recruited over the course of the next four to five weeks. "Of the 69 persons, 31 persons are slated to be deployed to the Accident & Emergency urgent care centre and operating theatre as technicians," he said. Mr Ingraham promised that more healthcare benefits are on the way for Freeport, including a new community health center at the recommendation of the Dorsette Report. He said it will provide the full range of primary health care services, including services for mothers and children and for the prevention and control of chronic non-communicable diseases. "These new facilities will enhance the quality of medical services at the Rand. They also represent my government's efforts to create jobs and opportunities for talented Grand Bahamian professionals and artisans, allowing them to demonstrate their design, project management and construction skills on specialised infrastructure projects," he said. Mr Ingraham commended all the contractors, architect and all others, as well as all the workers employed in the construction process. He added: "I am pleased that the phased redevelopment of the Rand Memorial Hospital has generated much needed economic activity and employment and business opportunities throughout the community. Let me assure you, more will come. "These facilities are a part of my Government's comprehensive plan for modernising and expanding tertiary, secondary and primary care facilities throughout The Bahamas."