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Sea ambulance, military hospital in the works—Fuad

Published: 
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, second from left, and Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley, right, turn the sod for the construction of the Carenage Health Centre, during a ceremony at Constabulary Street, Carenage yesterday. Also in photo are chairman of NWRHA, Dr Andy Bhangwandass, left, District Health Officer, Carenage Health Centre Nurse Juanice Awai-Payson, second from right, and chairman of the Diego Martin Regional Corporation, Darryl Smith. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Although the sod to begin construction of the new Carenage Health Centre was turned only yesterday, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan is already exploring the possibility of a sea ambulance and military hospital in the northwest peninsula. Addressing Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley, residents, medical officers and officials at the sod-turning ceremony at Constabulary Street, Carenage, Khan said he would seek the assistance of Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz to make it a reality.

Khan said he would consult with Cadiz to find a boat that could be acquired and outfitted with the necessary medical equipment, so that persons with serious injuries could be stabilised and transported faster to a medical facility. The idea was conceived as Khan explored ways to improve the access routes to Carenage and Chaguaramas. 

Speaking with reporters after the ceremony, Khan said he was looking into the possibility of relocating the Rebirth House drug rehabilitation centre and constructing an accident and emergency facility, with a nearby water ambulance for the easy transfer of patients to Port-of-Spain. He referred to the 2011 Redbull Flugtag tragedy, in which two men drowned, after the pirogue they boarded to go to the event at Williams Bay, Chaguaramas, sank.

Dimitri John, 22, of Piarco, and Nicholas Simmons, 14, of Princes Town, drowned after the pirogue they were in sank at Dhein’s Bay. Because of the traffic pile-up as thousands flocked to Carenage to participate in the Flugtag, many people had opted to hire fishing boats to get to Williams Bay. John was the nephew of the Housing Development Corporation's CEO Jearlean John.

Indicating that traffic jams sometimes caused by events in that part of the country could be a challenge for the authorities during an emergency, Khan said a sea ambulance would be the ideal option to ensure lives were saved. Extending his gratitude to the Julien family, who had been relocated during the process to acquire the land for the centre, Rowley said he was extremely happy to witness the beginning of construction of a “leading-edge health centre.”

Pointing out that the population was growing, Rowley said it was equally important for the infrastructure to grow as well. He was pleased with the variety of services which would become available to his constituents after the centre was opened, and singled out the wellness centre, which he said was a “good idea.” “A lot of what we are spending money on, and the treatment side, if we handle ourselves differently, we could eliminate some of those costs, as they are lifestyle diseases,” he said.

With several promises to continue the development in the area, Rowley said he was not worried that a change in administration would result in these plans being shelved. “The next government will ensure plans on the drawing board will be done,” he laughingly assured.

About the centre
Assuring that construction of the new Carenage Health Centre would be completed within 15 months at a cost of $79 million, Khan promised the two-storey, 54-room modern facility would provide a range of services to a catchment area of approximately 50,000. It will feature a wellness centre, dental suite, digital X-ray facilities, nurses’ and doctors’ exam rooms, records room, testing rooms and other services such as voluntary counselling and testing, family planning services and septic wound treatment.

Managing director of Power Producers Ltd, Roger Vieira, who represented the project contractor, spoke of the adjustments made to the original design. He said because the centre was just across the road from the water, it was necessary to raise the foundation to eight feet above sea level to avoid flooding problems due to heavy rains and rising sea levels. Revealing that the centre would include a solar-power component, Vieira said this would reduce both its environmental impact and carbon footprint.