Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama Peter Turnquest, yesterday, questioned government spending on a number of projects in Grand Bahama while making his contribution to the Freedom of Information Act Bill in the House of Assembly.
Turnquest shared a photograph of the Hunters’ Post Office building, which was estimated to cost $100,000 to repair.
Speaking to the repairs, Turnquest, Deputy Leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) said, Bahamians have a right to know why repairs to a building of its size would cost that amount.
Responding to Turnquest’s statement, Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville stood on a point of order, “Mr. Speaker, every piece of work that is done and any contract that has been awarded, some professional, either from the Ministry of Works or a private sector group goes in, makes the assessment, generates the scope of works and a price is issued.”
He noted that the project either goes out to selective tender or negotiated tender. “There is no question in my mind that all of the works that are being done, as a result of NEMA, has gone through the proper due diligence and the proper process.
“For him (Turnquest) to stand to his feet and question what we are doing, without any substantial evidence to prove what he is saying is completely wrong and he is misleading this House, just like his operatives were trying to mislead this House on the Internet, on Facebook,” Darville maintained.
“I have clearly outlined, with the representatives from the Ministry of Works, who scoped these buildings throughout Grand Bahama, and we have put a price tag on each construction item, which is inclusive of renovation of buildings and contents that exist in buildings.
“For him to stand to his feet and to imply without any factual information is misleading this House and he is trying to mislead the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“If you want to see something, you can approach me and I can show you unequivocally what has been done with any contract, on the island of Grand Bahama. My office is open, the Ministry of Works office is open and we are transparent; we are a transparent government.”
Turnquest responded to the Minister for Grand Bahama stating, “Mr. Speaker the Bahamian people, the people of Grand Bahama know that building and that is why we need Freedom of Information.
“We need to know the details, as he (Darville) suggests, he has the details of it, provide the details. He has the contracts, we will know who was invited to tender on it and we will see what the scopes are.”
Turnquest said that the Bahamian people would also like to know about the $1 million being spent for what he termed the “corridor” and cafeteria at the Rand Memorial Hospital (RMH).
Again on a point of order, Darville answered, “The Member for East Grand Bahama is speaking about things that he does not know anything about. First of all the price that he is talking about is incorrect.
“The second point I want to make clear is that I do not want the Member for East Grand Bahama to paint an incorrect picture and have to stand to his feet to withdraw what he said, while the information is disseminated.
“The government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas awarded two contracts for renovation at the RMH. One contract is for the renovation of the existing building that was used for a cafeteria space and it was awarded to a company called Land Star.
“We made the figures public at the signings of these contracts. The second contact was awarded to Pinnacle Construction, which is for the renovation of the corridor and the installation of a new block for doctors and interns to be on the compound, during the time when they are on call,” Darville explained.
He said that this particular corridor is a corridor that will interface and create a user-friendly environment for the residents of Grand Bahama, who access RMH and it is a recommendation that was given to the government by health planners – Geesa World.
“This particular renovation is essential to prepare us, first of all, for our launch for National Health Insurance (NHI) and to make the facility user friendly.
“The contract was not $1 million; it was in excess of $1 million and it incorporates many complicated things to make sure that this particular facility is user friendly.
“I have been a physician who has practiced at the RMH for many years. One of the issues that has faced the RMH on call staff is, there is no residence for the on call staff to be in so that the response can be quicker.
“This is all a part of a necessary step to upgrade the facility so that we can provide a better quality of health care, where the on call staff can be accessible to the emergency room and the wards, within a matter of a minute or two,” said Darville. This is what the government is trying to do, he added. “We are upgrading the quality of service that we provide for the residents of Grand Bahama and the only way we can do it is to improve the physical plant.
“We brought in the health planners to guide us on how to improve the physical plant, to ensure we create a hospital that is user friendly for doctors as well as the residents of Grand Bahama to improve the quality of service we provide.
“For you, it seems to be a corridor and a residence for a doctor, for us who provide health care it is to improve the quality of delivery of health care for the residents of Grand Bahama.
“We also improved the facility in East Grand Bahama, both in McLean’s Town and High Rock, and we intend to do more work because we have to make sure that the quality of care that is delivered in East Grand Bahama reflects the quality of care that is delivered at the RMH.”
Following Darville’s explanation, Turnquest admitted that he has seen some plans for work in East End, noting that they are in line with what he has been asking for.
“I am happy about that, but Mr. Speaker, back to the RMH and the corridor in excess of $ 1 million and a lounge for the doctors. We have some hard working doctors, but here is the issue Mr. Speaker, it isn’t a matter of whether the space is too good for doctors, because doctors deserve to be comfortable.
“I agree with that 100 percent. They ought to be able to work in an environment and particularly if they are on call, where they are comfortable. But Mr. Speaker, if you were to go around this country and look at some of the workplaces that civil servants have to work in, I wonder what they would say?
“I wonder what the people at the courthouse would say when they have to bring water or toilet paper. I wonder what the patients would say when they have to sleep on a gurney or an emergency room bed for days?” Turnquest questioned.
“When patients have to be housed in the Emergency Room, the same people that the minister talks about getting to in seconds, I wonder how they feel about over a $1 million for a corridor and a lounge for the doctors?
“Mr. Speaker, I would wager that the residents of Grand Bahama would much prefer for over a $1 million to be spent on increasing the number of beds in our hospital so that their family, friends and relatives could be comfortable, as they have to be resident in hospital.”
In response to the additional bedding question raised by Turnquest, the Minister for Grand Bahama suggested it is the goal of the renovations now taking place at the RMH and adjacent property.
“The whole purpose of what we are doing is to create additional, much needed bed space. What we are doing in the RMH for years, the cafeteria was in close proximity to the medical and surgical wards.
“Our planners, in their wisdom, decided that the time has come now to remove the cafeteria and kitchen out of the hospital to a new area and utilize that space for additional beds,” Darville said.
“It is a process … what we are doing now, is making ready a cafeteria to move the kitchen, so that we can create additional bed space at the RMH. The new corridor helps to provide the logistics necessary for us to accomplish it. It is all a part of our master planning.
“Our objective is first, to move the cafeteria so that the space can be available, so that we can renovate for additional bed space.”
Turnquest recalled that Grand Bahama was promised a new hospital, “but yet Mr. Speaker, we are investing over a $1 million in a lounge, some other amounts of money in a cafeteria, some other money in an auxiliary building.
“Mr. Speaker, I think again, access to the information that formed these decisions would be interesting and may very well be justified, but again this is why this Bill is important.
“Mr. Speaker, I can tell you Grand Bahamians want more bed space, they want to be comfortable, they want an upgraded residential facility; that is what they want. They would love a new hospital, but I know they are not too interested in $1 million being spent on a corridor.”
Published Thursday, February 2, 2017