Monday, January 22, 2018

Massive water tank collapses at Couva Children's Hospital

The collapsed water tank on the compound of the Couva Children's Hospital. Photo: DEXTER PHILIP

HOURS after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the Government's decision regarding the future of the Couva Children's Hospital, a water storage tank at the facility came crashing down.

The Express was told workers arrived at the site yesterday and discovered the collapse.

The hospital building was constructed by Chinese contractor Shanghai Construction Group.

In a statement on Monday evening, the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (UDeCOTT) confirmed that the tank ruptured and steps were already in train to have the situation rectified.

CCTV Camera footage showed that the rupture took place at 3:24 am Monday, UDeCOTT stated.

“While the tank is on the compound, it is in a solitary location, some distance away from the hospital and training facility assets, hence there was no damage to these assets, neither was anyone hurt” stated UDeCOTT.

The hospital and training facility both continue to have a full water supply, the Express was told.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Rowley said the search continues to identify a suitable operator for the Couva hospital and if “by April we are unsuccessful, immediate steps will be initiated to integrate the facility into the existing health care delivery system”.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said yesterday the incident was being investigated. “I heard something and it is being investigated. I don't have any details to give as yet,” he said.

The $1.3 billion hospital facility, whose construction was overseen by the Urban Development Corporation 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 remained unoccupied since while several stakeholders have made repeated calls for the Government to open the hospital.

Left to rot 

Former People's Partnership minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said yesterday he was not surprised by what had happened and accused the People's National Movement (PNM) Government of leaving the facility to “rot and collapse”.

Moonilal said equipment has also been left idle.

“They have abandoned the facility out of political spite and vindictiveness. Taxpayers' money will be compromised yet again by the neglect of the PNM Government,” he said.

At the commissioning of the medical facility, Persad-Bissessar had said the Couva Children's Hospital was to make the most advanced medical services available to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

She said the facility was geared to be a full-service paediatric and adult care facility with state-of-the-art clinical services complemented by teaching facilities for medical specialists.

There is a three-storey bed tower dedicated to paediatrics and women, containing 80 beds and a second three-storey bed tower dedicated to adult patients, containing 150 beds, she said.

The hospital is located off the Solomon Hochoy Highway, near Preysal.

Last May, Persad-Bissessar led a protest march from the Preysal Recreation Ground along the highway to the Couva Children's Hospital. She called on the Government to give a commitment to citizens that when the hospital is opened, all services will be free.

She also called on Government to disclose how much it costs to employ the committee chaired by Dr Winston Welch, which was set up to review health care delivery at the regional health authorities and rationalise the system of public sector doctors in private practice.

The Welch Committee said it could not find a rationale for building the Couva Children's Hospital, but recommended that it be used in some way.

Following the 2015 general election, Deyalsingh called on the private sector to partner with the Government to make the hospital accessible to the public.

Deyalsingh said while he too wanted to see citizens benefit from use of the hospital, the Government had been “left with no budget and no staffing plan” to have the institution operational.