All non-emergency surgeries at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) have been suspended as authorities investigate the “possible sabotage” of the hospital’s chiller system, the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) announced yesterday.
“The public is hereby advised that with immediate effect, all scheduled major surgical procedures for the operating theaters at the Princess Margaret Hospital have been suspended,” the authority said in a statement.
“Only emergency cases will be facilitated at this time.”
It added, “Following months of challenges associated with maintenance, power failures and possible sabotage, PMH has commenced works to facilitate the installation of an upgrade to the chiller system of the Critical Care Block (CCB) and will engage the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to investigate a possible compromise in security.”
Asked to elaborate on the suspicion of sabotage at the hospital, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said, “We would not have used that language capriciously or not knowing exactly why we were using that language. That said, we are not prepared to telegraph the basis of that statement pending the investigation by RBPF.”
He added, “We recognize that given the fact that air conditioners were not working up to speed that we would probably need interim or temporary chiller capacity in order to maintain the status quo especially given the fact that the summer was upon us and we had unusually high temperatures.
“So, we went ahead and ordered 200 [tons], 250 tons of chiller capacity. That chiller capacity is actually physically en route to Nassau and is expected to be here by Tuesday. What we did not expect was tampering, interference with or damage to the existing plant in spite of the security measures that are in place.”
Sands noted that the Critical Care Block was brought online in January 2015.
“There is not a single individual who would’ve thought that in a $100 million building with a very expensive air conditioning system designed, installed, etc., that two and a half years after installation that they would fail,” he said.
Sands said the block first experienced challenges with its air conditioning in 2017.
“The way we responded was we had local experts and an international expert come in,” the minister said.
“They made an assessment and they made recommendations, and on that basis we replaced one of the chillers. I believe that that cost an excess of $500,000, but I am not entirely sure what the dollar amount was.”
The block experienced more issues with its air conditioning in 2018.
“I’m sure you remember those days,” Sands said.
“That led to industrial action by the physician staff and so on and so forth. And again, we would’ve sought the advice of and the direction of local and international consultants. The fix was implemented and the recommendation then made, notwithstanding the relatively young age of the chillers, that given the maintenance or lack thereof, that we would have to replace additional chillers.”
Sands said he has directed police to initiate an investigation.
The minister said surgeries are expected to resume on Tuesday.
On Monday, the PHA signed a $1.15 million contract with Caribbean International A/C Services Limited for two cooling systems.