Nine years and nine months after the sod was turned to start construction of the 100-bed Scarborough General Hospital at Signal Hill the first in-patient was admitted yesterday. (Saturday 15th December 2012)
In describing the event as an historic one for Tobago and its health sector, Secretary of Health and Social Services Assemblyman Claudia Groome-Duke said she was very pleased with “Operation Nightingale” during which 57 in patients were moved in an ambulance convoy with blaring sirens and police escort from the old Scarborough Regional Hospital at Fort King George two miles away to the new $750M institution overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The first patients to arrive at the institution at 8.43 a.m. were six children who were admitted to the paediatric ward. This was followed by the admittance of seven in-patients to the surgical ward, 10 to the maternity ward, eight to the medical ward and26 to the accident & emergency department.
CEO of the TRHA, Paula Chester-Cumberbatch, reported that the transfer of the in-patients went smoothly. This operation included the Division of Health and Social Services, the Tobago Police and the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).
Chester-Cumberbatch said this new state of the art healthcare facility was designed to meet the needs of the growing population and to accommodate the changing face of healthcare in Tobago.
“The new hospital aims to empower our clients to lead better lives by providing compassionate healthcare services and by building an environment where people feel welcomes and respected while receiving a range of improved and new services,” she added.
Full services which were available at the stroke of 8 a.m. were in the neonatal department, four operating theatres, medical imaging, rehabilitation and 19 speciality services. It also included improved security services such as an electronic locking system and baby monitors and an improved customer service. Eighteen new house officers, a variety of specialists and 50 nurses were added to the medical staff that served the old hospital.
Secretary Groome-Duke who was at the old hospital to witness the loading of the in-patients and their intake at the new one said she was very happy to see manner in which they were handled. She said each patient was accompanied by their spouse, parent or guardian to ensure that they were comfortable during the transfer. She also congratulated the TRHA staff who came out to be part of “this historic exercise” and said healthcare in Tobago can only move to higher ground”.
The sod for the institution was turned in February 2003 by then Minister of Planning Dr Keith Rowley, then Minister of Health Colm Imbert and THA Chief Secretary Orville London. It was originally estimated to cost $135M for construction through a loan from the IDB health sector reform programme. However, there were several delays in construction and the project stopped in 2006 in a dispute between the project managers, Nipdec and the main contractor NH International (Caribbean Ltd). Construction restarted under a new contractor, China Railway Construction Ltd in 2010 which was contracted to construct the buildings and supply the state of the art equipment.
The financing, construction and equipping of the hospital were the responsibility of the Central Government with the Ministry of Health the client. While the THA and TRHA were given responsibility to operate the services as a unit of the ministry, it will have to wait until the government gets parliamentary approval for an amendment to the Regional Health Authority Act to vest the institution to the TRHA.