An early Christmas present to the people of Tobago came yesterday as the Scarborough General Hospital was opened and is now fully operational.
Nine years and nine months after the sod was turned to start construction of the 100-bed hospital at Signal Hill, the facility was fully functional yesterday.
In an exercise called "Operation Nightingale", 57 patients were moved via ambulance convoy, with blaring sirens and police escorts, from the old Scarborough Regional Hospital at Fort King George, two miles away, to the new $750 million medical institution yesterday.
The first patients to arrive at the institution at 8.43 a.m. were six children who were admitted to the paediatric ward.
This was followed by the admittance of seven patients to the surgical ward, ten to the maternity ward, eight to the medical ward and 26 to the accident and emergency department.
Full services were available at 8 a.m in the neonatal department, four operating theatres, medical imaging, rehabilitation and 19 specialty services.
It also included improved security services such as an electronic locking system and baby monitors, and an improved customer service.
Eighteen new house officers, a variety of specialists and 50 nurses were added to the medical staff that served the old hospital.
The financing, construction and equipping of the hospital was the responsibility of the Central Government, with the Ministry of Health as the client.
Vissyer Providence, the mother of ten-year-old patient Jabari Phillips, said she was happy the hospital was finally open.
"They kept to their promise; they said they would move positive on the 15th, and really, they did so with a smooth transition, and I notice the nurses; they did well to put the patients together. It was very good."
Health Secretary Claudia Groome-Duke said the day was historic for Tobago and the country.
"I have seen the very first patients being removed from the Scarborough Regional Hospital to the Scarborough General Hospital, and I've also welcomed these patients to this Scarborough General Hospital," Groome-Duke said.
The first baby was also born yesterday at the hospital.
Akeisha Victor of Calder Hall, Tobago, gave birth to her third child, a bouncing baby girl, around 12.30 p.m.
The sod for the institution was turned in February 2003 by then minister of planning Dr Keith Rowley, then minister of health Colm Imbert and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London.
It was originally estimated to cost $135 million.
However, there were several delays in construction, and the project was stopped in 2006 after a dispute between the project managers and the main contractor, NH International (Caribbean Ltd).
Construction restarted under a new contractor, China Railway Construction Ltd, in 2010, which was contracted to construct the buildings and supply equipment.
Reproduced from Trinidad Express