Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Noel Arscott, has officially opened the Male Ward of the St. Thomas Infirmary.
At a special ceremony held to mark the event in November, Minister Arscott hailed it as “a critical signpost on our journey to provide tangible social protection to the vulnerable people of our country. It is one of the most important duties of care we have, and we are charged to ensure that we do our very best to make effective social protection the common experience in our country.”
The current facility emerged out of the urgent need for a suitable residential space to accommodate the male residents. The Ward was in a deplorable condition and presented a serious health risk to its occupants.
The work to create the new facility dates back to 2009, when the then Department of Local Government worked with the Board of Supervision, the St. Thomas Parish Council and the Fund for Culture, Health, Arts and Education (CHASE) to construct a new male residential ward at the St. Thomas Infirmary. The initial construction works were completed in March 2011 at a cost of $19.9 million.
Additional works involving the construction of a new sewerage system, carried the total project into this year, at a cost of $10.8 million. This new ward, which will house an additional 31 male residents, features double occupancy rooms, a general bathroom, a doctor’s examination room, matron’s office and space for visitors.
The Minister stated that this project reflects the Government’s drive to transform the physical spaces through which social protection is delivered. That was the signal given by the Prime Minister, during her contribution to the 2014/2015 Budget Debate. It was announced at that time, that the National Housing Trust (NHT) will be using $280 million of the surplus normally used for grants and subsidies, to provide assistance in three main areas. These include:
- The improvement of infirmaries – $80 million.
- Assisting with the provision of shelter for street persons – $74 million.
- Assisting with the maintenance of indigent housing – $72 million.
The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, which has portfolio responsibilities for Infirmaries, Street Persons and Indigent Housing, has been working with the NHT to implement the initiative in collaboration with the Board of Supervision and the Local Authorities.
Infirmaries requiring urgent assistance have been identified in St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Portland, St James and Clarendon.
The Minister also announced that in relation to the provision of Shelter for the Homeless, a number of projects have been identified in Clarendon, Kingston & St. Andrew, Westmoreland, Hanover, St. Ann and Manchester. These include the Refurbishing of a Building to be used as to Drop in Centre, the Acquisition of a building to develop a transitional facility for the Homeless, repairs to existing transitional facilities, and the construction of new ones.