Recardo Frederick
Front Page
August 12, 2022
Government secures funding for new hospital

Local government has received 80 per cent of the funding it needs to reform the delivery of healthcare in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Finance minister Camillo Gonsalves announced on Tuesday that the World Bank had credited the country with US$51 million — 80 per cent of the total sum it intends to provide via a loan for the “Strengthening Health System Resilience Project”.

This project includes the construction of an Acute Referral Hospital at Arnos Vale but, according to government officials, covers other aspects related to a complete reform of the local healthcare system.

Gonsalves told media that discussions with health officials led to the conclusion that “…We need to discuss the health system generally; its resilience to disasters and climate change and its resilience as a healthcare system, so we need to talk about more than a building”.
Plans are in place under this project for the streamlining of health services to make it more efficient.

The total project is estimated at US$98 million, with more than 80 million going towards the construction of the hospital and purchasing of necessary equipment.

The remainder will be used to strengthen healthcare resilience through a systems of reform across the sector and project management and consultancy fees.

Gonsalves said they had hoped to have money in hand before the volcano erupted but the decision was subsequently made after discussions with the World Bank to allocate monies instead to the Volcanic Eruption Emergency Response.

“A deferral of a few months ended up being a deferral of about a year,” he said, adding that officials from the Ministries of Health and Finance worked together throughout the lengthy negotiation process.

The finance minister announced that the World Bank had approved a loan for the project, totalling US$64 million.

And he anticipates the remaining 20 per cent of the figure to be dispensed in July 2023 but noted that it will not affect the construction of the hospital as that sum will be used to buy necessary equipment for the new facility.

Health minister St Clair Prince said the World Bank’s approval of funds for the healthcare project is “very much welcome” by his ministry and the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“In my opinion, that’s one of the best news we’ve had in this country since independence with respect to healthcare services delivery here in this country,” he said.

The health minister noted that the project aims to “increase the scope and quality of the hospital services in particular and the health system in general”, while speaking to the resilience of the sector and a response to emerging problems of the world.

Prince added that the new facility at Arnos Vale will likely be a game changer for the delivery of healthcare services, as there currently exists a number of constraints within the system.

“There are a number of challenges facing the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. It’s a 19th century building which now houses the MCMH. It has major defects which make us vulnerable to natural events such as hurricanes, floods, heavy rainfall, earthquakes and other natural disasters and you’ve seen before, how we have been affected by these natural disasters,” the minister said.

He added that the MCMH is “located in a flood plain, in the heart of a busy urban area, which present concerns themselves”.

Prince expressed the need to expand secondary care locally, and at the same time, provide certain levels of tertiary care, which persons currently seek overseas at considerable costs.

“Additionally, other areas of focus must be taken into account such as governance structure, fee structure, other capacity building interventions, the upgrade and deeper integration of health information systems, which will become even more necessary now that we’re into the technology age,” he said.

“So when we talk about this project, we do not just mean the construction of a building at Arnos Vale. It is a lot more than that. It embodies the entire healthcare system in St Vincent and the Grenadines”.

Director of Economic Planning Recardo Frederick was the chief negotiator on the team of officials sent to negotiate with the financial body.

“We’re at a good stage. We now have the money in hand. We now have to get ready to break ground and start construction,” Frederick said in brief remarks at Tuesday’s press conference.

He commended the staff at Ministry of Health as well as those in the Economic Planning Department for putting in extra hours within the past six months to arrive at this stage.

The director said now that funds have been credited, the project will now go out to tender internationally for a management firm to assist in the management of the project, and a construction firm to build the hospital.

Frederick anticipates that the project will last approximately 24 months.

The intention is to have the hospital operational by 2026.

The remaining funds for the hospital project, just over US$30 million will be provided through a soft loan from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).