The Ministry of Health says Government is committed to having the Couva Children's Hospital fully operational in 2018 and that efforts to achieve this are far advanced.
The $US1.3 billion facility, whose construction was overseen by the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) was completed in March 2015 and commissioned by former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on August 14, 2015.
However. it has remain unoccupied since while several stakeholders have made repeated calls for the Government to open the hospital.
In a press release issued on Friday, the ministry stated that it notes the ongoing and justified national interest in the Couva Children's Hospital and wishes to place the following facts in the public domain.
“The facility was commissioned by the then Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar, on August 14th, 2015 a mere three weeks before the 2015 general election. It is to be noted that this was a ceremonial opening and no citizen of Trinidad and Tobago ever received treatment there as, at that time, it was still a construction site with incomplete facilities. It was thus unfit and unsafe for occupation by medical personnel.
“It is to be noted that part of the perimeter road, next to the unfinished detention pond, collapsed in early 2016. Construction was completed in July 2016. The Ministry of Health hopes that this corrects any perception that this facility has been unused for two or three years,” the release said.
According to the release, children continue to receive care at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Paediatric Hospital which is only 70% occupied.
During his presentation of the 2017/2018 budget on October 2, Finance Minister Colm Imbert gave the assurance that the hospital will be opened next year once Government locates a “suitable” operator for the Hospital.
He said: “We expect that the facility will be commissioned in 2018,” before adding that an analysis done by him revealed that the hospital would carry an annual operational cost of $430 million.
Prior to that, on April 9, 2016 Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh announced a decision by the Government to enter into a public-private partnership so that the public can have access to the hospital which was initially designed to cater mainly to the medical needs of children.
Deyalsingh said the Government was not able to provide sufficient funding and staff for the hospital, given the financial strain on State's funds.
Following the Health Minister's announcement, Liaquat Ali, president of the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce welcomed the suggestion and asked for greater stakeholder participation with Government on any project that taxpayers were paying for in Couva.
Ali said: “At the end of the day, we want this facility up and running. We stand here ready and willing to assist in whatever way we are called upon to.”
He said he did not believe citizens alone were capable of running the hospital but whatever arrangement is finalised, locals should be given priority.
Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan said the public-private partnership was something that should have been done a long time ago, and added that too many children were suffering and parents were stressed out.