Govt signs $1.1 million contract for new chiller system at PMH

Govt signs $1.1 million contract for new chiller system at PMH
Health Minister, Dr. Duane Sands.

Contract also signed for roof repairs

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Ministry of Health on Monday signed a $1.1 million contract with Caribbean International Air Conditioning Services Limited, to install a new air chiller system at the Critical Care Block of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).

“This upgrade will alleviate cooling issues in the past in the hospital’s critical care block and surrounding areas, capping an intensive series of remedial initiatives undertaken by the Princess Margaret Hospital to repair and to restore our air conditioning system,” said Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands at a press conference held yesterday to announce the signing of two contracts.

Sands lamented yesterday that the government found itself tasked with replacing chiller systems in the Critical Care Unit of PMH, just short of five years after new systems had been installed.

The new chiller systems were installed back in 2014 as a part of the $100 million-dollar investment into the Critical Care Unit of the hospital under the former Christie administration.

The move was dubbed as one of the largest investments in the history of Bahamian healthcare. However, just two years later, workers found themselves experiencing issues with the systems.

Yesterday, Dr. Sands said that the ministry did not expect to take this issue on so soon after installation.

“Anybody looking at an air conditioning system, a brand-new system, would expect that you would get more than five years out of it,” Sands said. “Even if you use that as a rough rule of thumb, we did not get all of the time that we ought to have gotten.

“You know the critical care block was only commissioned in 2014. So, to imagine that we would be having such major expensive repairs to be done.

“…I mean this problem started in 2017 [and] it was a shock, but it speaks to a challenge of maintenance that we hope that moving forward we are going to be beyond that.”

In 2017, some elective surgeries had to be postponed due to a malfunctioning chiller system.

Also, in 2018, medical professionals walked out of the hospital in protest, listing the malfunctioning air conditioning system as one of their serious concerns.

When asked why the ministry took so long to rectify the issue, Dr. Sands said yesterday that they were advised by technical persons to repair the already installed systems rather than replace them.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Liberal Party’s shadow minister of health, Senator Dr. Michael Darville,  told Eyewitness News in a telephone interview yesterday that the chiller systems at PMH began malfunctioning before the former government came to office in 2012.

Darville alleged that upon completion and opening of the critical care block, they realized that there were challenges that were already in existence as a result of work allegedly carried out by contractors that were hired by the former Ingraham administration.

“At that particular time, the Progressive Liberal Party had to purchase a chiller system in 2017,” he said.  “It is my understanding that as we speak, the only chiller system working at the critical care block is the one purchased by the Progressive Liberal Party. The process was already in place, but the complete installation took place under this administration.”

The complete installation of the new chiller system is expected to take place over the next five months. In the interim, the ministry has rented systems to take on some of the load.

A contract totaling a little over $632,576 was also signed yesterday with Ringo and Sons Construction and General Maintenance to begin the second phase of roof repairs at PMH.