Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 20 March 2023 (PAHO) – The Georgetown 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 1,121,623.79 retrofitting upgrade was funded by UKaid from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) (formerly UK Department for International Development (DFID). The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) implemented the project, in partnership with Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.
This ‘Smart facility’ is the final of eight health care facilities in St. Vincent and The Grenadines (SVG) that were retrofitted to become safer, greener, and more resilient to natural disasters and climate change. In March 2022 Contractor Irvine Interior & Construction Inc started the retrofitting and recently completed it.
Eight upgrades have now been completed including the pilot Georgetown Hospital showcase facility that demonstrated the value of innovatively combining disaster safety and environmental (e.g. energy and water) improvements in phase 1 as well as Chateaubelair Hospital, Barrouallie Health Centre, Mayreau Health Centre, Celine Clouden Hospital on Union Island, and the Port Elizabeth Hospital and Health Centre on Bequia.
The £46.3m 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. A total of £5,6m (USD 7.6m or 21m EC dollars) has been allocated to SVG.
The Georgetown Smart Health Centre was retrofitted to improve its resistance to hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes as well as to boost the ‘greenness’ of the facility and emergency contingency provisions. The improved Safety aspects included the installation of hurricane resistant roofs, windows, and doors as well as improved storm water management and the installation of a generator. Walls were reinforced, electrical wiring renewed, and a fire safety system installed as well as undergrounding of cabling. The boosted Functional aspects of the retrofit included specific improvements for disabled persons, accessibility, emergency 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.
Delivering remarks on behalf of Steve Moore, Resident British Commissioner to SVG, Mr. Seon Samuel, Political and Projects Officer in the SVG office said to the participants at the handover: “I am delighted that this final selected critical health facility is now transformed to a gold standard resilience level of safety and greening and back in service for the community. The eight facilities chosen to be retrofitted with grant funds from the UK are spread right across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines since the ability to cope in emergencies in more remote places is vital and to ensure as many people as possible benefit. The programme is 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. Mr. Jimmy Prince, Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment said, “We wish to provide quality and comprehensive care to the population in their everyday environment in an equitable and affordable way. This includes health promotion, preventive services and all the other services to which we have become accustomed in the community. This Georgetown health center is part of this thrust as it serves as the first entry point into the health care system in this community. It feeds into the Georgetown health complex, we have here in one place, in one compound, one location, access to primary, secondary and some tertiary services.”
The PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr. Amalia Del Riego, 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 environmentally friendly and resilient health facilities.” She 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.
In his address, Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Ralph E Gonsalves said “We have to maintain this facility as a top-class facility always. People come from all over St. Vincent and the Grenadines to use this facility. There is nowhere else in any rural area in the Caribbean, that have three facilities like this; the Modern Medical and Diagnostic Center with all diagnostic tools, the Smart hospital and Smart health center.” He said that although hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centers are being built in the country, the best health is to keep individuals from going to them, especially when it relates to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension which must be controlled.
SAFER + GREENER + MAINTAINED = SMART