The government yesterday signed a heads of agreement with Western Atlantic University School of Medicine Limited for a $64 million medical school in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
“It is estimated that in the university’s first 10 years of operation, student and faculty spending on housing, food, entertainment, goods, and on-island transportation, will provide a combined $200 million in revenue for Grand Bahama,” Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said.
“At the peak of construction, 150 jobs will be created. During the full operation of the campus, approximately 200 permanent jobs will be created for Bahamians.”
Minnis said 80 percent of the workers will be Bahamian.
Peter Goetz, CEO of Western Atlantic University School of Medicine, said the school will be the first medical school in The Bahamas.
He said students will spend two years at the school once it is opened.
“This is the renaissance of bringing youth and [vibrancy] to Freeport,” he said.
“We cannot wait to get started.”
The development will include university-owned on-campus housing for faculty, staff, and students, according to Minnis.
He said it will also feature on-campus business which includes a bookstore, cafeteria, and a student center that will provide music, food and beverages, and a copy center.
“Western Atlantic intends to build its own campus on land to be leased from the Public Hospitals Authority,” the prime minister said during the signing in Grand Bahama.
“A maximum of 50 acres will be leased in three tranches, based upon the university’s satisfaction of certain deliverables. The campus will be developed in multiple phases over the next 10 years.
“The first three phases represent an investment of $64 million. It will involve the construction of 98,000 square feet of classrooms, offices, lab facilities, maintenance, security and related spaces.”
He said the construction of the first phase of the school will begin by the end of the year.
Minnis said it is expected to be completed by September 2020 with 50 to 75 permanent new jobs created on the campus.
“This number is expected to increase by approximately 10 to 15 percent annually with growth in both student enrollment and physical space,” the prime minister.
“Phase three is expected to be ready for occupancy by September 2022 to accommodate growth to 500 medical students by September 2023.
“During phase four, which is scheduled to begin in late 2022, the campus will need to continue its physical expansion with ongoing construction. Campus enrollment is expected to reach 1,000 students by 2029.”
Minnis said the operation of the Grand Bahama campus will be contingent on the university obtaining accreditation from the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for the Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP) or an equivalent body.
He said the university will make five concurrent scholarships available for Bahamians who want to attend.