An update on the latest developments at the St Jude Hospital construction site was the focus of a grueling media briefing, Monday, as the authorities seek to determine the way forward for this southern health institution.
Prime Minister Phillip Pierre provided a vivid description of the ongoing works at the St Jude Hospital to allay fears concerning the validity of the works in progress, in contrast to the gross impediments that have occurred over the past years since the structure was engulfed in flames in 2009.
In response to a question from a reporter on this ‘burning issue’, PM Pierre outlined the latest set of challenges needed to be dealt with at the St Jude Hospital.
“Too many people have spoken about St Jude without having the background, the knowledge or reliable experience (expertise) to speak about hospitals,” he stated.
“Hospitals are a complex business, very complex …,” the prime minister retorted.
Pierre explained that when his administration took office, one building was found “completely stocked with bush, rats and rodents.” He said another building was found leaking and it was “70% complete, but water was flowing in there…70% complete but you have no roof.”
The prime minister said since no member of the Cabinet of Ministers is a “hospital expert”, the authorities decided to look for a group of competent people…with no political agenda, to form a committee, but who were passionate about St Jude.
He noted that the committee sent in a report, which stated that the new structure, which government referred to as the “box”, was not feasible to be worked on, therefore, it was better to rehabilitate the first set of buildings.
Subsequently, he said, a Cabinet decision was taken to move ahead with the findings of the report.
Pierre said the report was evaluated by the Ministry of Infrastructure to determine the basis for recommencement of works at the site.
With delays on the project, was the previous contractor paid his dues, or does the work on the new hospital hinge on the contractor being paid for the work that was done?
The prime minster replied that, “the government is indebted to Fresh Start for over $1 million and is being paid …we did not do like the former administration of having to pay interest to a contractor, because the (previous) government refused to pay him.”
Additionally, said Pierre, the Fresh Start Company should not have been allowed to work until a direct award was signed.
To clarify the status of Fresh Start’s work on the project, he said, “As far as St Jude is concerned, Fresh Start work has not been put through any contractual form of arrangement.”
In this context, is the government obligated to pay them (contractors)?
Pierre said that structure is currently under repairs and the contractor “is being paid for work that has been done.”