COVID-19 facility: Govt to spend over $1B to rebuild flood-prone Ocean View Hotel

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…decision unbelievable – Dr Irfaan Al

Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Government has been retrofitting the flood prone Ocean View International Hotel, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, into a COVID holding facility. Caretaker Finance Minister Winston Jordan has since revealed that over $1 billion will be spent on this project.

Jordan made this revelation during a Zoom interview with the Department of Public Information. He was asked whether Government would be providing stimulus help to families and businesses, to which he pointed out their various expenses.

Construction at Ocean View International Hotel

“We have had to open centres to receive these different cases, the biggest one being Ocean View Hotel and convention. And retrofitting that facility will cost is in excess of $1 billion. Just to retrofit it,” Jordan said, adding that to retrofit and outfit it will cost in excess of $1 billion.

“And that will exclude running costs you would have once the facility gets up and running. And then we have the other facilities that have been earmarked, the gymnasium, the old GBC facility. That will probably be more costly than Ocean View.”

Operational costs not included

Jordan further said that this sum does not include the operational costs for the facility.

Meanwhile, People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Presidential Candidate, Dr Irfaan Ali slammed the arrangement in a social media post on Saturday. Expressing his incredulity over the arrangement, he pointed out that not only is in excess of $1 billion being spent to retrofit it, but it is also being rented for $22 million per month.

PPP/C Presidential Candidate Irfaan Ali

However, he did not disclose the exact nature of the arrangement. In an interview with this publication, former shadow Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony questioned what the arrangements are.

“We would like to see the contract, what are the arrangements, what obligations they would continue to have going forward. How long will this contract be in place? And if in a year’s time this thing is over, what happens? Is the Government going to be reimbursed for all this investment they made into the building?”

Anthony noted that in principle, having another hospital is not a bad thing. However, he criticised the secrecy around the Government’s arrangement with the private owner of Ocean View and noted that transparency is necessary to pronounce on whether it is a good arrangement or not.

Dr Frank Anthony

“From a health response, we need to ensure we have capacity for hospitalisation, in case we see a surge of patients coming in. The Georgetown Hospital obviously would not have enough space,” he said, adding that because of the hospital’s status as Guyana’s main hospital, it would be too disruptive to host an influx of COVID cases there.

“So, having another hospital where you have COVID-19 patients is not a bad thing. But there are other Government buildings and hospitals that can be utilised. But here is it, instead of the Government using one of its own buildings, has decided that they will use a private place. If the arrangements are disclosed, perhaps we can say this is a good thing. But we don’t know.”

According to Anthony, spending in excess of $1 billion to retrofit a building is a lot of money. In addition, he noted that it raises questions as to why the Government did not spend this money retrofitting a building they own.

As of April 17, Guyana has recorded 63 cases of coronavirus, with 6 deaths. Government did not report any new cases for Saturday. The Pan American Health Organisation has projected that Guyana could see as many as 1400 cases.