ST. CROIX– The Committee on Health, Hospitals, and Human Services chaired by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., held a public hearing on Friday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Conference Room, St. Croix. The purpose of the hearing was to update Governor Juan F. Hospital and Medical Center’s (JFL) building project.
In his opening statement, the Chairman said in recent weeks, there have been troubling reports about the hospital’s operations, coupled with additional delays in the long-awaited completion of the JFL North. The hearing was conducted to reassure the community that JFL provides quality care and is the home of skilled and compassionate healthcare providers. He added their priority is to bring healthcare to an optimal level as legislators and community members.
In concluding, he said he could not stress enough that healthcare is not a privilege. Still, a right that should be available and accessible to all Virgin Islanders, and this position shared by President Biden, clearly stated that in his address to Congress on Wednesday night.
Dyma B. Williams, Interim Chief Executive Officer, JFL, said the projects are in various stages towards completion, and all Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment have been purchased and installed, while the inventory verification is currently in progress.
CEO Williams also stated that each item received and installed is will complete Biomedical inspection, location verification, and tagging to ensure that all inventory is appropriately marked, tested, and readily identifiable. When asked what attributed to the JFL North project delay, CEO Williams said the contractual and the procurement process. She indicated that the specific basis of design elements excluded from the original RFP’s scope of work and, thereby, the original contract in early 2018.
In addition, the medical gases, fire lines, potable water, hot water, sewer lines, and other critical utility connections were to be connected to the existing, damaged JFL building. According to Williams, completed projects should have been included within the original 2018 contract. However, she added that FEMA funding requires in 2018 that the work be completed parallel with JFL North.
Williams also noted the following challenges toward completion are: (1) to connect JFL North to the existing utility, sewage, and medical gasses through the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center (VICC), which is most adjacent to JFL North, and (2) complete the Medical Building correctly. She added that JFL successfully extended the customized piping and temporary connections to the VICC to connect to JFL North in conformity with this plan.
According to her, JFL requested an assessment by their certifier. However, the certifier indicated that he would not certify the connection of the existing medical gasses and utilities from JLF to VICC and JFL North.
Regarding COVID-19 delays, CEO Williams said it resulted in the holds of the project. She pointed out that they experienced delays in delivering the furniture, fixtures, and equipment—a significant delay in completing Radiology due to the COVID-19 exposure on the vessel sailing this equipment to the Territory.
In a brief update, Williams said FLAD had been approved as the Architectural and Engineering firm for the permanent JFL hospital. Based on research and discussions with healthcare builders, including Flad, the planning and design of the permanent JFL hospital will also take about 18 to 24 months.
According to Williams, they hear the disappointment and frustration of the community, as they have had to announce delay after delay of critical health care infrastructure.
Chairman Francis, Jr., said the residents of St. Croix must have confidence in JFL leadership, staff, and the ability to provide quality care.
Senators at Friday’s hearing were Chairman Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Senators Marvin A. Blyden, Kurt A. Vialet, Samuel Carrión, Alma Francis-Heyliger, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Donna Frett-Gregory.