Kingstown, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, July 7th, 2021 (PAHO) – The Barrouallie Smart Health Centre was today officially handed over to the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment as part of the ‘Smart Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project. The USD 726,320.09 upgrade was funded by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK Government (formerly Department for International Development (DFID). The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) implemented the project, in partnership with Ministry of Health.
This ‘Smart facility’ is one of 7 health care facilities in St. Vincent and The Grenadines (SVG) being retrofitted to become safer, greener, and more resilient to natural disasters and climate change. On 3rd June 2020 Contractor Irvine Interior & Construction Inc. started the upgrade but required more time to complete it due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano.
The Barrouallie Smart Health Centre was retrofitted to improve its resistance to strong winds, flooding, and earthquakes as well as boost the ‘greenness’ of the facility and emergency contingency provisions. The improved Safety aspects included the installation of stronger wind resistant roofs, windows, and doors as well as improved storm water management. Walls were reinforced, electrical wiring renewed, and a fire safety system installed. The boosted Functional aspects of the retrofit included specific improvements for disabled persons, accessibility, telecommunication, and infection control. The Green upgrades provided more efficient cooling, ventilation and waste management, rainwater harvesting systems, LED-lighting as well as solar panels - all aimed at lowering the operating expenditures and environmental footprint as well as provide back-up power. The facility also received a full upgrade of the Pharmacy and HVAC system to keep medicines and supplies at a safe storage temperature.
Steve Moore, Resident British Commissioner to St. Vincent and the Grenadines sent a recorded message to the participants at the handover: “I am delighted that this critical health facility is now upgraded and back in service for the community. It is the fourth of seven facilities being retrofitted with grant funds from the UK. The programme will be instrumental in supporting the country’s efforts to reduce disaster vulnerability of vital public buildings and boost its climate resilience”. COVID-19 and the recent eruption of the La Soufriere Volcano has further highlighted the importance of disaster preparedness and contingency measures at health facilities for staff and patients and reinforced the need for many of the changes made. The improvements will require careful and timely maintenance in order that they continue to operate and deliver their services most effectively.
Hon. St. Clair Prince, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment told the gathering "it is a pleasure to attend the handover of this Smart Health Centre in Barrouallie, as it is another improvement on the health care landscape of St. Vincent and the Grenadines." He congratulated the people of Barrouallie and Central Leeward for being the recipient of the building. “We are able to open this facility at one of the most trying times in our history, the devastation in the last two years, including the dengue outbreak, Covid-19, the volcanic eruption, and recently hurricane Elsa which passed to our north” he said. He thanked the PAHO/WHO team for ensuring that the facility was completed during challenging circumstances which will provide a motivation boost to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He also thanked the British Government for the funds provided indicating that without the funds transforming Barrouallie Health Centre into a Smart facility would not have been possible.
Dr. Yitades Gebre, PAHO/WHO Representative of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries said that “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the countries of the Caribbean region prone to natural hazards and high-risk to disasters, therefore, it is crucial for health facilities to be able to deliver care and protect its staff and patients during these conditions. Through this partnership with the UK Government, we can strengthen structural aspects and generate operational savings in an environmentally friendly and resilient health facilities.” He also said that PAHO is committed to working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment for the success of the project which will ensure that all members of the communities are able to receive the best quality of healthcare possible while promoting environmental sustainability.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves provided the feature address for the opening. After thanking all previous presenters and those in attendance, he provided a comprehensive review of the healthcare system. “Overwhelmingly the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are satisfied with the delivery of health care in our country, from the standpoint of public health, primary and secondary health care, although there are some weaknesses at the secondary healthcare level”, he said. Prime Minister Gonsalves said that at the tertiary level arrangements have been made to accommodate the demands of the population, where the specific services are being offered by the state. He also touched on the in country problem of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, serious non communicable diseases which are not being given the attention required by individuals. The Prime Minister used the opportunity to encourage individuals to get their covid-19 vaccination.
The £43.8m Strengthening Health Facilities in the Caribbean (Smart Hospital) project is currently implemented in 7 countries: Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica. The project is funded by UKaid through its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the Caribbean and implemented by PAHO in close collaboration with the Ministries of Health of the selected countries.
Alongside the Georgetown Smart Hospital, which was the pilot showcase facility that demonstrated the value of innovatively combining disaster safety and environmental (e.g. energy and water) improvements during phase 1 of the project-, Chateaubelair Smart Hospital, Port Elizabeth Smart Health Centre and Barrouallie Smart Health Centre, are now complete. The other health facilities to be retrofitted under this project include Mayreau Health Centre, Union Smart Hospital and Georgetown Polyclinic. The latter will help boost recovery for the residents now returning following the volcano eruption. Full designs for boosting resilience at Stubbs Polyclinic are also being provided to MoH to take forward with other funds.