Aug 05, 2020 News Comments Off on COI into Ocean View Hospital needed – Dr. Leslie Ramsammy,
Former PPP Health Minister,
Former Health Minister under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, is of the view that the $1.6B Ocean View Infectious Diseases Hospital deal requires a special Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to determine whether it was executed within the full ambit of the law.
Dr. Ramsammy, in a letter to the Kaieteur News referred to the deal as the “Ocean View Heist” and said that it stands as the poster child for corruption.
“This deal must be investigated. There must be a commission of inquiry,” Dr. Ramsammy said.
Giving a detailed explanation on his view, the former Health Minister questioned the “soundness” of a policy for a dedicated National Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Dr. Ramsammy related that “There never was a policy discussion for a stand-alone Infectious Disease Hospital… Note that HIV, TB, Malaria and other infectious diseases responsible for thousands of deaths in Guyana never catapulted Guyana towards a National Infectious Disease Hospital.”
He also pointed out that Guyana had separate medical facilities dedicated to managing those diseases but they were later integrated into the overall health sector, becoming consistent with global policy directives.
But today, he noted, Guyana moves into a different direction.
Dr. Ramsammy touched on the varying price tags placed on the cost for constructing and rehabilitating the old hotel into a state of the art COVID-19 medical facility – where it moved from $250 million initially, then mysteriously bloated to $1 billion and recently, at the commissioning ceremony, the price tag jumped to a whopping $1.6 billion with no account given for the variance.
When President David Granger was questioned about the spending, he could not provide the cost, only saying that the spending was “thoroughly ventilated at Cabinet.” However, it was the Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry, Colette Adams, during her address, who placed the cost at $1.6 billion.
“How are you commissioning something you call the National Infectious Disease Hospital and you do not know the details of the cost, just that the rehabilitation has now exceeded $1.6B?” Dr. Ramsammy questioned.
Delving further, he added that the deal gets ‘bizarre” because of the fact that the hospital though commissioned, cannot house patients since it has no equipment.
Former Health Minister, Volda Lawrence, had put the cost for acquiring the needed equipment for the hospital at “three times the cost for construction” – something Ramsammy stressed is cause for major concern.
“The nation is now warned that the cost of retrofitting the building to serve as a hospital will be in excess of three times the rehabilitation cost – that is about $4.8B. How do they know that? Is there a list of the equipment and a cost estimate done? Or, as feared by many of us, have they given out a contract for the acquisition of these equipment? When this cost is added, the overall construction and equipping cost would be in excess of $6.6B,” he theorised.
Continuing, Dr. Ramsammy pointed to several key health projects executed during his tenure as Health Minister including the new Linden Hospital, the Inpatient Building at the Georgetown Public Hospital, the Public Health Lab, and the New Amsterdam Public Hospital all of which, he said, the cost for construction and equipping were a fraction of the $1.6 billion Ocean View facility’s cost.
Additionally, he raised concerns that an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money was expended to rehabilitate and equip the building without the due tendering process.
Further, the past government, he said, had given no indication of whether they would be procuring the property from the owners, only to say that the building is in receivership and that discussions for that part of the deal was taking place.
“So outside of the almost $7B expenses for rehabilitation and equipment, there is also the charge for procuring the Ocean View property. This part of the deal is shrouded in secrecy,” he noted.
Kaieteur News had received documents spelling out an agreement with the owners and the then APNU+AFC government where they agreed to $13 million per month to lease the more than 5 acres of land at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.
Further, one important factor in the deal, Dr. Ramsammy said, was missing, was a detailed plan. He stated that the coalition had not accounted for the chronic shortage of doctors and nurses that the country is already plagued with because of the Coronavirus and questioned where the human resource would come from.
“Because there was no discussion,” he said “no consultation, the availability of other accommodation for quarantining purposes was never explored. Instead, Guyana has committed to an enormous cost, one of the largest ever in the health sector, without any tendering.”
Despite the fact that the hospital has no equipment and is ill-prepared to provide basic critical care, COVID-19 patients are still being sent to the facility. One senior public health staffer had revealed this detail and lamented to Kaieteur News that the construction of the billion-dollar building was highly flawed because it lacked the basic amenities needed for an Infectious Diseases sanatorium.
The deal raised eyebrows and attracted the attention of the Auditor General whose office is conducting a detail audit into the APNU+AFC’s COVID-19 expenditure. That audit started sometime last month and the findings will be made public at its conclusion.
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