The ribbon cutting at the Critical Care Block by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEARLY two years after its initial opening date, government and healthcare officials yesterday formally announced the official commissioning of the Princess Margaret Hospital’s multi-million dollar Critical Care Block.
The CCB, a project originally introduced by the Free National Movement in 2011, was originally set to open in June 2013. However, a number of challenges have plagued it since its inception under the former Ingraham administration.
At the official commissioning ceremony at the Princess Margaret Hospital yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said although the project has “not been without challenge,” its commissioning was a reminder of “how far we have come in terms of the level and quality of healthcare that is available in our public institutions.”
He also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring that “every citizen of the Bahamas has full access to quality care when they need it,” referring to the proposed 2016 rollout of National Health Insurance in the country.
“The opening of this Critical Care Block, which stands in comparison with any in the region and elsewhere, is a reminder of how far we have come in terms of the level and quality of healthcare that is available in our public institutions,” Mr Christie said yesterday. “It comes at a cost but in terms of the benefits and the quality of care which this facility will provide, the benefits will far outweigh the cost. Moreover, it cements the place of prestige that our tertiary care has earned and it builds confidence and pride in the staff and all those associated with this facility.”
A number of challenges have plagued the CCB since the Ingraham administration broke ground in 2011.
It was initially expected to be open no later than June 2013; however it was later said that it would open four months later, in October of that year.
In July 2014, Public Hospital Authority (PHA) officials said the initial attempts at obtaining a $35 million loan from First Caribbean Bank, which was needed for funding the purchase of important medical equipment, had become “problematic.” The PHA also faced issues of insufficient staffing needed to operate the block, which further added to the delays.
Last August, PHA Managing Director Herbert Brown and the PHA became embroiled in a multi-million dollar dispute with Cavalier Construction. The company’s Managing Director Richard Wilson said that constant design changes – especially in the mechanical and electrical areas – had delayed completion.
Mr Wilson told Tribune Business the CCB was supposed to have been a 20-month project to end in June 2013, but work was still required some 15 months later.
In his remarks yesterday, Mr Christie said with “heightened expectation for more and better facilities” and “better trained health care professionals” from the public, the government was committing to the implementation of NHI and facilitating “universal and equitable access to healthcare to all Bahamians.”
“There is no question that the provision of affordable healthcare has become very expensive to the average Bahamian and we are all aware of the many sad stories where one is unable to get the care that they need because of lack of financial resources,” he said. “But I have always believed that quality healthcare is a basic human right and so, I wish to reaffirm the commitment of my government that through a National Health Insurance scheme, my government will endeavour to ensure that every citizen of the Bahamas has full access to quality care when they need it.”
According to Mr Christie, the CCB is the “culmination of the single largest financial investment in the public health system” in the Bahamas since the initial construction of PMH.
It cost the government over $50 million in construction costs and $45 million in medical equipment, management information systems and furniture.
The new block holds 18 recovery beds, 20 private intensive care unit rooms, a central sterile department, administrative facilities, new laboratory facilities and a new main entrance that is disability friendly. According to officials, it also has the capacity for family members to sleep over with their hospitalised loved ones.
According to Minister of Health Dr Perry Gomez, the paediatric block has already accommodated 15 patients.
He said upon sterilisation of the rest of the building, the rest of the CCB would transition to accommodating more patients.
Dr Gomez called the commissioning “health system strengthening at its best.”