The central block of the Port of Spain hospital under threat


FILE PHOTO: Construction of a new central block at Port of Spain General Hospital continues July 4, 2021. –

The COMPLETION of the $1.1 billion contract signed by the government with Shanghai Construction (Caribbean) Group Ltd for the new central block of the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) could be in jeopardy.

Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said the project had either slowed down or stalled as the Chinese company complained to Udecott project managers about the delays and threatened to terminate.

Moonilal said that at the center of the dispute appears to be a local contractor that the government wanted to insert into the project, of which Shanghai is the main contractor.

In November 2019, the Prime Minister set fire to the public-private partnership with Shanghai. The 13-story block project, which included a 540-bed tower, was expected to be completed within 24 to 30 months.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament last week, Moonilal quizzed Dr Rowley on the matter.

On the occasion, Rowley said issues relating to the covid pandemic, coupled with global supply chain issues and the shutdown of construction sites in accordance with health regulations, would all have contributed to the differences. He said Udecott and the contractors were in discussion and working on a resolution.

Moonilal reiterated his concerns on the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report platform on Monday evening. He read excerpts from the letter sent to Udecott by the boss of the Chinese firm, dated November 5, 2021.

In this letter, Shanghai complained about the behavior of the contractor, whom Moonilal wants to identify, and indicated its intention to terminate its contract.

Moonilal claimed it was another example of the corruption and incompetence of the Rowley government to manage large scale projects.

“In the aftermath of the failed ‘Scandals’ project in Tobago, the Loren Manatee gas deal that collapsed, and the failure of the $500 million project with the Chinese government to build homes, came the PoGHS project.”

He said the UNC has been ridiculed for not caring for the aging central block, and that the PNM “has been fighting in the collective chest that they build a new central block.

“It all came crashing down when the Chinese company pulled out and said the project was now ‘mission impossible’ due to management incompetence, excessive government delays and their project management and deliberate attempts to outsource the main Chinese contractor”.

He said the local contractor had offered substandard and even unsafe proposals for steelwork that would have undermined the integrity of the project.

Reflecting on the state of the country, Moonilal concluded that it was falling apart day by day.

“Nothing seems to be working,” he said, commenting on a reported decision to lay off 6,000 CEPEP workers. (Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein explained on Tuesday that it was a temporary move affecting only the staff of three contractors.)

“At a time like now, where people don’t have food, jobs, where the household depends on the income of just one person working at CEPEP, how could you be comfortable enjoying a luxury life?

Moonilal also congratulated opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is celebrating 12 years as party leader.

He said every prime minister from Eric Williams to Patrick Manning left a legacy, except Rowley.

“Every Prime Minister has something to show, Eric Williams – Pt Lisas; George Chambers – Mount Hope; ANR Robinson – Tobago Deep Water Port; Patrick Manning – the waterfront project; Basdeo Panday, Piarco International Airport.

“And Kamla Persad-Bissessar? Couva Children’s Hospital, Debe South Campus, Highway to Point Fortin, Hospitals, Couva Sports Complex, Tunapuna, Schools, Police Stations, Barracks firefighters.

“Rowley doesn’t have a single achievement to show after all these years.”

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