EIGHT years after being razed by fire and operating out of the George Odlum Stadium, the full story of the reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital has yet to be told. However, it seems this will not remain so any longer.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on Thursday at a news conference strongly hinted that the story may very well be played out in a court of law.
The hospital’s reconstruction, which started under the Stephenson King administration (2009-2011), continued under the Kenny Anthony administration (2011–2016) and now the Chastanet administration, is a sordid story of a project undertaken in a fragmented and poor manner.
So badly has the project been handled that its expected completion date of 2011 has come and left, with no one being able to even determine a new completion date. Also fading into obscurity is the original scope of the project officially named the St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project.
The original scope of the project were the reconstruction of the surgical building on the original site, including the ground floor, first floor, approaching ramp, roof structure with ventilation, and renovation of other buildings on site so as to facilitate re-occupation.
This was supposed to be a somewhat short-term/temporary measure towards restoring the health care capacity of the southern region and the Hewanorra International Airport. However, what was supposed to run into, perhaps, just hundreds of thousands of dollars had mushroomed into so many millions of dollars. Government sources, such as Chastanet and Economic Development Minister, Guy Joseph, have both quoted EC$118 million and counting as the figure already spent on the project.
Public outcry at the untenable situation regarding the hospital project has been widespread, with many decrying the money spent with no hospital to show and the deteriorating conditions at the George Odlum Stadium, which has housed St. Jude Hospital ever since it was razed in September 2009.
Corruption theories have permeated the public airwaves regarding the funds earmarked for the hospital’s reconstruction, which prompted the current government to hire an engineering firm to undertake a technical audit of the hospital’s reconstruction phase. The report is now in the hands of the government, which seems determined to get to the bottom of the story.
On Thursday, Chastanet noted that government will pursue a forensic audit and is intent on holding people accountable on account of the money spent so far on the incomplete hospital. Government, he added, is committed to making resources available for that particular case.
Chastanet expects several court cases to develop from the report/s on the hospital project, especially the Technical Audit Report. He said the person who conducted that report will be a state witness and is prepared to testify.