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Sands: Be grateful for loan offer

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands yesterday defended a nearly $1 billion loan offered to the government to assist with efforts following Hurricane Dorian, noting that The Bahamas should not appear to be “ungrateful” or make “disparaging comments about any offer”.

 “[Even] as it is important to be transparent, we must be seen to be grateful,” Sands told The Nassau Guardian.

“And so, to make disparaging comments about any offer, I think we ought to be careful. We ought to be mindful of the fact that we do not wish to seem ungrateful for any level of support offered.

“That said, the government of The Bahamas and, in particular, the Cabinet of The Bahamas, will inspect every single offer to determine whether any offer is in the best interest of the people of The Bahamas and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. That said, it is impossible to do that in one day. We will be very granular in our activity.”

On Monday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government hosted a pledge conference to raise funds for relief efforts following Hurricane Dorian, which decimated Abaco and Grand Bahama nearly five months ago.

During that conference, U.S.-based The P3 Group, Inc. (P3) pledged to make roughly $975 million available to government as a loan that would be repaid with interest.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell has cautioned against getting too excited about the government’s $1.5 billion “pledge” announcement.

“The three Ps, the [public-private partnership] as they are called, is simply another example of lending money to the government and who knows at what price, and you can be sure that friends of the FNM will be at that trough. As for country donations, there was nothing really substantial there either,” he said.

However, Sands yesterday shot down critics like Mitchell.

“I say to those persons, I think you’re jumping to a premature conclusion, and you know it’s interesting that a lot of the discussion has been around the P3 pledge,” he said.

“There were other pledges from other governments that made available concessionary access to funds to the people of The Bahamas, and I think we need to look at this thing very holistically.”

Sands said that “at no time did we state categorically that pledges from this conference would be grants or gifts”.

“So, people have pledged technical assistance,” he told The Guardian.

“They have pledged some cash, some kind. And, you know, we would’ve received these pledges just on Monday. This administration will reveal to the Bahamian public exactly what is included in every single one of those pledges and I think we can look forward to all of the details being provided.”

Breakdown

On Tuesday, Dee Brown, chief executive officer of The P3 Group, said if accepted by the government, the funding by P3 will be allocated to several different categories.

He noted a majority of that $975 million financing pledge is allocated for healthcare with a total of $675 million earmarked for that aspect.

However, according to a UNDP project summary, which was prepared by the Ministry of Health and obtained by The Guardian, a majority of the funds allocated for health is expected to go to a new hospital on New Providence.

The Guardian understands that the document was presented to the UNDP to outline how much was needed for various healthcare projects post-Dorian.

Three projects are outlined in the document.

The first project is the rebuilding of “a better and stronger” Rand Memorial Hospital on Grand Bahama, which is allocated $90 million to $120 million.

“Based on previous facility assessments, the following contributing factors indicate that there is a critical need for a new facility and investments should not be channeled to attempt repairing the entire facility: the existing topography is susceptible to future flooding, resulting in an inevitable repeat of service and staff disruption; the age of the structure [g]uarantees high maintenance costs with limited opportunity for developing a smart, climate-resilient facility; 10 years of expansion and modification has resulted in a mix of various HVAC and air conditioning systems delivering varying levels of performance and reliability; electrical components (i.e. transformers, switchgear, UPS) and plumbing that have experienced storm-related damage; 75 percent of the ductwork throughout the facility is fiberglass, which cannot be cleaned of mold; the existing campus cannot accommodate all inpatient and outpatient services necessitating perpetual maintenance of annual rental contracts,” the summary notes.

The document also notes the allocation of $300 million to $500 million for a new hospital for New Providence.

According to the summary, the Princess Margaret Hospital received “the brunt of the patient load” as a result of Dorian.

“Understandably, after the passage of Hurricane Dorian, the population shift from the affected islands to New Providence exacerbated the existing situation with respect to critical bed shortages and the need to expand clinical spaces,” it notes.

“Inpatient wards are over-crowded, particularly maternity, male surgical and children’s wards; shortages in critical services areas (i.e. dialysis, ICU); and notable challenges within the Emergency Department include further overcrowding with accompanying long wait times, constrained workspaces, and poor patient/workflows.”

The final project, according to the summary, is the construction and repurposing of clinics, which is allocated $30 million to $50 million.

“The vision for the public health care services in Abaco is to deliver the highest level of care to all residents utilizing a network of seven clinics, with Marsh Harbour as the hub, providing 24-hour primary, secondary and tertiary care services,” it notes.

“Additionally, there is a move toward regionalization of health care facilities, with Marsh Harbour as parent clinic for Hope Town, Man-O-War Cay and Guana Cay in Central Abaco. Sandy Point clinic in South Abaco is to serve as the parent facility for the Moore’s Island clinic while Coopers Town clinic will provide [the] same for the Fox Town and Green Turtle clinics while also servicing Treasure Cay community.”

The three projects are expected to cost between $420 million and $670 million excluding air and sea transportation, according to the summary.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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