No more hospital expansion Instead Govt. has plans for homeless
By LEDEDRA MARCHE
Instead of the extended permanent health care facility the previous government acquired the former Island Palm Hotel for, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis said, it will be used as a temporary homeless shelter.
"We are now in discussions," Davis told the media on Tuesday while in Grand Bahama for the Independence celebrations.
In March, the Hubert Ingraham-led government sealed the $1.9 million deal for the three-storey building situated on prime property next to the Rand Memorial Hospital on The Mall Drive and Explorer's Way.
The Free National Movement government had planned to utilize the hotel property with its 156 rooms to properly develop the island's health care product and a medical tourism market.
But DPM Davis said the concept is to use the building to lend temporary assistance to those who have fallen on hard times.
"I know that the previous administration talked about expanding the Rand Hospital by including that as part of the plans," he said. "We are revisiting that hopefully to ensure that we are able to bring some immediate impact on some of the challenges that the Grand Bahamians are facing."
With the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama at 21.2 percent, at last report, more families have been displaced and forced to turn to Social Services for food, light bill and rent assistance.
"The stories about people living in cars, people living on the beaches when we have that property sitting there doing nothing so we are looking now at the possibility of bringing some of those persons off the beach, out of the cars, placing them there on a temporary basis until we can find something more suitable for them either jobs and then moving them away from there" the DPM said.
Davis said residents who have found themselves in financial difficulty as a result of unemployment or otherwise call on the government for assistance on a daily basis.
"They are numbering in the hundreds hence it's becoming an urgent priority for us to just find a way to make use of that hotel property for the purposes of at least alleviating, in the short term, some of the suffering of Grand Bahamian residents," he said.
The Ingraham Administration had hoped the acquisition of the four building hotel property, which also came with a kitchen and restaurant would have been used as the hospital's new cafeteria, and believed it was a "natural fit" to the hospital.
The purchase of the hotel was the second such investment by the Ingraham administration on the island and came hot on the heels of a $9 million major renovation at the Rand's Accident and Emergency Urgent Care Centre, Operating Theater and Day surgical Unit.
The hotel property was to facilitate the expansion and upgrade of the Rand.
Just last month, Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) Chairman Ian Fair told The Nassau Guardian the island was getting closer to bringing a medical tourism product to fruition and a number of investors had approached the GBPA on pursuing the industry.
Additionally, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority Herbert Brown said there was "absolutely no question" that medical tourism will be incorporated into the Rand.
The $1.9 million acquisition for the Public Hospitals Authority was to properly develop a health care product that is attractive for Bahamians and foreigners, however, the present government has put those plans on hold.
© 2012 The Freeport News