Barbados does not need a new hospital.
That was the assessment by Independent Senator Professor Henry Fraser, as he lent his years of experience in the medical profession to the Freundel Stuart administration today in the Senate while speaking on a Government guarantee for $25 million for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Pointing out that all over the world hospitals of considerable age were refurbished, expanded, restored and served extremely well, the senator therefore summised that a new hospital was not necessary.
Fraser, who is a retired medical practitioner pointed out that the QEH had cost the Government of the day $8 million, while a mere study for a new hospital would cost $15 million today.
“Captain Tomlin who was the architect who drew the plan for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital told me it was designed to last 100 years. Now, interestingly, if you do not maintain a building it gets into trouble. Our mothers always told us that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but we have not taken the trouble since the oil crisis of the early 1970s to spend any money in prevention.
“The maintenance of the QEH is the main trouble. The external walls of the QEH are solid. There is some deterioration in the windows, doors and finishings. We have plenty of information which indicate that the foundation of a building is sound, even if you have to replace the roof, you can do it at two thirds the cost of a new building,” he posited.
“I want to give credit to the creativity and the design of Captain Tomlin. Soundings were done of the land, and the hospital’s elongated shape with a twist or two was designed to sit on the stone that sits there because if you go into other places like right over by the playing field you get into swampland where you would need 60 or 70-foot piles. So the hospital design is a convenient building designed to fit the geology. Secondly it was designed north/south so that the breeze flows right across the wards, so that you do not need
airconditioning in the wards,” Fraser added.
The independent senator recalled that the late Prime Minister David Thompson had stated repeatedly that since from planning to completion of a new hospital would take ten years, Barbados had to make the QEH work.
“I have to make the point that the issues have to be looked at rationally and not as a political football. We have had four ministers in five years, and we have had four statements about the hospital being replaced by a brand new hospital, but let us look at the issue of cost. When I was chairman of the Tourism Advisory Council, the big discussion then was what to do with the Hilton because we wanted to upgrade the Hilton. Well quite a lot of money was spent creating new designs for a new Hilton block. So that the Barbados Hilton would follow the model of Hiltons in New York and Chicago where the 1960s building will be refurbished, but supplemented by a modern tower block with larger rooms that the BTA president and vice-president wanted.
“A Coopers & Lybrand Miami feasibility study pointed out that building a brand new building would cost $68 million and that refurbishing and building a tower block they claimed would be $78 million. But the point was they said that $68 million would be the cost of a brand new Hilton. I have heard no published figures about final cost for the new Hilton, but the consensus of the final figure was $180 million.
“Well the recommendation which was put forward to Dr Jerome Walcott when he was Minister of Health was that a new block to the north of the hospital and refurbishing of the majority of the old hospital would cost $480 million and a new square block which will be built right across Martindales Road would cost $680 million and a new hospital would cost $880 million,” Fraser added.