Minister of Health John Boyce has acknowledged that there has been an escalation of the cost for the construction of the St John Polyclinic.
Boyce was responding during today’s Estimates Debate in Parliament to charges from St James Central Member of Parliament Kerrie Symmonds that the price tag for the long proposed polyclinic had risen from $16 million to $24 million.
Boyce indicated that while he looked forward to the official opening of the facility, so that the people of St John and its environs could enjoy the services it would offer, the overall cost of the polyclinic was anticipated to be just over $24 million.
“This is a matter of public record. It is regrettable that some of these construction costs do tend to get out of control sometimes, but as we meet the real issues of construction, this is sometimes inevitable. I certainly would trust that this $24 million will see completion of the Polyclinic at St John and the opening of that facility very soon,” he said.
The minister said that work was in progress at the secured facility and added that all of its equipment was stored.
“The polyclinic has been secured, all of the doors and windows are in place, the equipment for the polyclinic is stored at the Ministry of Health under lock and key, and so I believe that all is well interms of the equipment for the polyclinic,” Boyce said.
St John MP Mara Thompson also entered the debate refuting the claim that the polyclinic had incurred a significant number of cost overruns because the Government continued to make additions to it.
She stated that the polyclinic was always intended to be a “transgenerational multipurpose facility”, which would be equipped with an ambulance bay, pharmacy, laboratory rehabilitation therapy, family planning services, anti-natal and post-natal care, nutrition department, a weight room, an aerobics room, an audio/visual centre and library among a host of other amenities.
“It is intended to be all-inclusive, to serve not only St John but the entire eastern side of the island from the north of St Philip all to St Andrew and residents from St Thomas will be free to come to this polyclinic as well.
“For the Honourable Member to stand and say that he understood it was merely a polyclinic and now all these things are being added is a misrepresentation of the facts,” she said.
In his contribution, Symmonds accused the Government of mismanagement of the public purse, arguing that there was no better demonstration of this than the St John Polyclinic, which was estimated to be built at a cost of $16 million.
“The expenditure to date is $20.5 million. That is a cost overrun. The supplemantary brought here in January was for another $4 million. That would tax us to $24.5 million. In the Estimates, there is a further request for $6 million,” he noted.
“That is not to say that we are against an expanded plan, even though they did not come to us and say so. There is a core issue. The Estimates are still silent on fundamental issues. The provision for the additional staff that would have to be employed to provide for the expanded services that are being contemplated and planned for the polyclinic. Then there is the promise that the polyclinic will be opened this year. You will need to be paying the employees from this year.
“If ever the time had come to haul in the popped kite it is now. Sober up and get serious about this talk about they can come back and get a top-up. I heard a minister in the House of Assembly use those words, ‘We can come and get a top-up’, a supplementary. That was said. You just cannot be coming back for a top-up. That is what we are calling financial indiscipline,” Symmonds added. (AH/KC/NC)