Port of Spain hospital central block levelling starts next week

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh. –

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said levelling of the old central block of the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) will begin next week, and will continue for 12 weeks.

He said services at the hospital will continue as normal.

The levelling phase will cost approximately $3.5 million, with additional mitigation strategies incurring an increased cost.

Deyalsingh said several factors delayed the levelling of the block, which had been evacuated following the 6.9 earthquake which shook Trinidad in August 2018. These included relocating the oxygen system, moving electrical cables, building a new accessway for the operating theatre, two new patient lifts and a new doctors’ lounge.

NWRHA acting CEO Major Anthony Blake said noise and sound were the two main issues anticipated and described the mitigation strategies being put in place to counteract these.

“There will be dedicated hours for demolition, with levelling and construction activities taking place beginning at 1 pm daily and ending between 8 and 10 pm. Dust screens for affected areas will be installed along the external areas of the building. The NWRHA team would have identified critical wards that required noise attenuation, including ICU and the operating theatres that had to operate 24/7, and that should be completed by Udecott by the end of this week.”

He said the contractor had applied for a certificate of environmental clearance from the Environmental Authority to ensure compliance with the law during construction. He said the site would be watered constantly to keep the dust down.

Blake said a monitoring and evaluation team had been set up, and a communication plan had been established both for staff and the public.

“We met with all the staff at the NWRHA, we made sure we went to them early and often to tell them what was happening. We met with the community, especially those close to us like Holy Name Convent, the TT Fire Services in Belmont, and a number of residents, to give them warning of any challenges in the project. We have promised to come back to them and we’ve set up a hotline for them to call us if the noise or dust affects them.”

He said some “soft demolition” had already been done.

“This involved removal of the external cladding from the building, roof sheeting, windows, burglarproofing, etc. What you have now is the steel portal structure and the concrete members of the building.

“Udecott will be using a top-down approach. This means you will have jackhammers and pneumatic drills on the top floor starting to chip away at the concrete-and-steel structure, and taking their time to get the rubble down to the bottom of the building. That’s why it’s taking 12 weeks. They have a layout and a plan in terms of a sequence for demolition.”

PoSGH medical director Dr Shaheeba Barrow reiterated that the hospital intended to maintain a 24/7 service.

“Our accident and emergency service and obstetrics and gynaecology departments will continue as normal for patients who need to access those services. The autopsy and mortuary services will also be available.

“In an effort to decrease the traffic during the construction period, we have adjusted the clinic start times to 6 am and 9 am. It is hoped that by 11 am patients would have been seen and then would have two hours to get their prescriptions filled.”

She said patients needing to get prescriptions filled after 1 pm would be able to do so at the Oxford Street Health Facility, and a 60-bed ward had been built at the St James Medical Complex which would be used to mitigate overcrowding or under necessary circumstances. She said staff had been deployed in both areas.

“What we hope to do is to keep the most severely critically ill patients in the hospital, and as they stabilise we will probably be moving them to St James to continue their recovery and treatment before they are discharged.”

She said the main people to be affected will be the clinic patients, as services for in-house patients would continue as is.

PoSGH surgery head Dr Dexter Thomas said the main operating theatre would be affected by the levelling process as it’s immediately adjacent to the central block and access would be blocked. He said the gynaecological theatre, which was furthest away from the central block, would be used for emergencies between 1 and 10 pm.

“It’s actually smaller and doesn’t have all the equipment, but we have made contingency plans where if, in the event a major surgery is required immediately, we can ask the contractors to stop work for the duration of the surgery so it can be done at the main operating theatre.

“Based on records over the past few months, we don’t anticipate this to be a regular occurrence, maybe once or twice a month.”

Deyalsingh said completion of the new central block was now scheduled for 2024, although a firm date could not be given.