The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and several private sector companies have launched an initiative to accelerate the addition of facilities for more than 50-beds for COVID-19 patient care. This is to respond to the dramatic increase in hospitalization as the country goes through another wave of infections.

The initiative has seen over a dozen private sector firms already committing more than $20M to the project which will see the assembly of hard wall tents joined into an additional COVID-19 facility, adjoining the UHWI’s current COVID area. Work is underway to prepare the site for receiving the units.

Chief Executive Officer of the UHWI, Mr. Kevin Allen noted, “I want to take this opportunity to thank corporate Jamaica for entering into this partnership with the University Hospital. It is very important that we make this a reality at this time, as the country is facing a severe crisis in managing patients diagnosed with the virus. There’s a lot to be done and I am asking all well thinking Jamaicans, those who can help, please join in and help. This fight is not about the UHWI, it’s about the entire health ministry and those we are striving to protect."

In the meantime, Medical Chief of Staff at the Hospital, Dr. Carl Bruce said the initiative will do more than provide emergency shelter for COVID-19 patients. He explained that it will help the University maintain its teaching programme, so that a shortage of critical skills does not develop in another year or two, because the hospital failed in this period to continue to train and certify the critical skills needed of this teaching medical institution.

“The UHWI has to continue to teach students, produce doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and radiologists. We are now in the phase of reviewing our strategy for carrying out this mandate while living with COVID-19. Hence the addition of a field hospital or temporary shelter will allow us to manage the Covid surge, treat non-Covid emergencies, urgent cases and deliver on teaching and research", remarked Dr Bruce.

Chief Executive Officer of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, Gary Allen, who along with his Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Barnes have been assisting in the solicitation of private sector entities for support, noted he is very happy with the response of the sector to the request for help. He says twelve entities have already made firm commitments to fund some units that are being procured and assembled under the project.

“When Dr. Bruce and his team reached out to me, I immediately recalled their efforts in helping our colleague Michael Sharpe who was hospitalized there with complications from COVID-19 earlier this year. We thought that to have lost Michael and Credit Manager, Rohan Scarlett to COVID-19, it was in their honour that we had to help; and the strong support of our private sector colleagues have shown that in this time of difficulty there was a lot of corporate support to do more to help the country”, said Mr. Allen.

He indicated that so far firm financial commitments have been received from Sagicor Group, ICD Group, the RJRGLEANER Communications Group, Sandals Resorts International/Jamaica Observer, VM Group, GraceKennedy Group, PanJam Investment Limited, Stewarts Automotive Group, FLOW Jamaica, BARITA Investments Limited, JMMB Group, Restaurants of Jamaica (KFC), Tropical Battery, with others indicating they will support but have not yet quantified the level of support.

He said other private sector companies are being asked to assist as best as they can to alleviate the pain and suffering being felt from COVID-19 by hundreds in our society at this time. At a short ground-breaking event last Friday afternoon all the key participants encouraged additional support, encouraged people to get information, be comfortable and be vaccinated, as well as continue to take the necessary precautions of sanitizing and washing hands frequently, avoiding crowds and always wearing a mask around others.