After six years and more than a billion dollars spent on what has become the tallest building in the city, the San Fernando Teaching Hospital was commissioned yesterday and is expected to be opened to the public in the coming year.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan and Prof Clement Sankat, principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) were among the dignitaries who attended the function at the hospital's compound at Chancery Lane in San Fernando.
Construction of the multi-storey building began under the People's National Movement government, at an initial cost of $296 million. Khan yesterday said the building will be completed at a cost of $1.8 billion.
The building was originally intended to house Government ministries and was called the Chancery Lane Administrative Complex.
The 18-level complex was renamed the University of the West Indies (UWI) Teaching Hospital in March this year by the People's Partnership Government.
The teaching hospital is an extension of the San Fernando General Hospital that was constructed 58 years ago.
The Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago was hired to do the completion works of the teaching hospital, at a cost of more than $7 million. The government of Austria was assisting with establishing the hospital, chairman Jearlean John said.
Minister of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs Dr Roodal Moonilal said it was challenging to transform the building intended for commercial use to a hospital, but it was a learning experience for all those involved. He said UDeCOTT worked with teams of well-established and respected specialists and experts in the field of medical architecture and construction.
The building was transferred to adhere to North American codes.
Moonilal said there was a 100 per cent self-power generating capacity, "so in the event of power outages, services will continue unabated and without risk to patients".
The new hospital will accommodate 216 beds to assist with the problem of overcrowding at the old hospital, Moonilal said.
The state-of-the-art facility is equipped with modern lecture halls, seminar rooms, laboratories and conference rooms, as well as rooms for the San Fernando General Hospital outpatients clinic. There are also rooms for doctors who are on call.
He said 99 per cent of the labour force were local citizens; and when the building was completed, there would be room for 500 permanent employees.
In April next year, the hospital will be fully commissioned.
Dr Lackram Bodoe chairman of the South West Regional Health Authority said he was not sure exactly when the first group of patients will be able to be treated at the hospital, but he said it will be soon.
Moonilal said when the San Fernando Teaching Hospital was completed with a link bridge to the old hospital, the San Fernando General Hospital will be completely renovated and upgraded.