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At a pre-Cabinet press briefing on Monday, Sept. 25, Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation, Guy Joseph, hastened to reassure Saint Lucians who may have been alarmed by statements made last week by Minister of Health Mary Isaac.
Saying he had not heard Minister Isaac’s statement, he nevertheless rejected the idea of complete demolition, noting that a partial tear-down and rebuild of certain deficient areas may still be necessary.
“Demolishing does not mean the entire structure of the hospital. There are certain components of the hospital that needs to be redone. And if you are trying to redo it you may be better off building something new. The idea of demolishing is if you want to use the same footprint of the entire facility…” he said.
When asked for more information about which components exactly would need to be redone, Joseph responded: “I cannot give you all of the details of what is happening. The recommendations are, to get St. Jude’s functional, you have to condemn the whole bottom floor.”
Joseph reiterated that all options are still on the table, and while he was not able to give a specific timeline as to when they’ll be able to announce a plan for the way forward, he assured the gathered press that all efforts are being made to solve the myriad of issues plaguing the rebuild process.
Minister Joseph informed the press that further inspections of the facility are imminent.
“I can say that on Wednesday of this week we are doing a tour with the Fire Service at St. Jude, because the Fire Service has been making recommendations in relation to St. Jude to meet the basic safety requirements. So we are going down there again to see based on the previous recommendations they had made how it fits into the existing facility. So we will be down at St. Jude on the site at 10 am on Wednesday morning.”
He brushed off press requests to accompany him, saying “Well, you’ll have to call the press secretary, I’m not the one to make that decision,” despite earlier referring to the St. Jude site as an “open house”.
According to a memo dated January 26, 2016 entitled “Re: Fire Safety Appraisal of St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project at Augier, Vieux-Fort”, some of the safety recommendations that needed to be implemented at that time were:
• Fitting the proposed elevator with a fire emergency feature
• Marking final exits with illuminated “FIRE EXIT” notices.
• Ensuring that exit doors are rated for a minimum of 90 minutes
• Extending the proposed automatic fire alarm system to all buildings on the premises
• Installing heat detectors in cooking areas, generator rooms, etc.
• Configuring storage areas to meet safety standards
• Developing an evacuation plan
• Conducting a walkthrough to oversee testing of safety systems
In the “Findings and Recommendations” section of the document presently in the public domain entitled “SHJRP Technical Audit: Interim Report”, there was no reference made to the need for demolition of buildings on the hospital site.
Joseph asserted that the technical audit “has saved us millions”, and that “a financial audit is very much required”. He noted however, that a proper audit would be exceedingly difficult to conduct properly, since according to him “there is not a single document in the Ministry from the Accounting Department of the Ministry itself to say that they kept abreast with basic financial statements”.
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