The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover the cost of replacing the Gov. Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital on St. Croix, which sustained severe damage the hurricanes of September 2017, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced in a statement released Friday by Government House.
FEMA has reviewed the proposed replacement of Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and found the actual replacement cost is eligible, as the estimated repair cost exceeds 50 percent of the estimated replacement cost, the news release said.
Friday’s Government House statement gave no estimated cost for the new hospital or a timeline for when construction would be started or completed.
Bryan welcomed the news and thanked FEMA for its continued support to the territory in the post-hurricane rebuilding effort.
Prior to Friday’s announcement it was uncertain whether the federal government would cover the cost to replace the hospital or provide funds to repair the structure.
“This announcement is welcomed news for the residents of St. Croix and also the hardworking men and women of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital,” Bryan said. “JFL is a critical part of our territory’s healthcare system, and we are working to ensure we rebuild it to meet the healthcare needs of our residents. We now have an opportunity to build a facility that is more comfortable for the staff and patients, more energy efficient and resilient enough to withstand the rigors of our changing climate.”
Bryan said, however, while the replacement of JFL is “a step in the right direction, a new structure will not solve the longstanding issues challenging the territory’s ability to provide quality affordable healthcare to its residents.”
While in Washington recently, Bryan addressed some of those issues, namely the disparities with Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to the territory in his testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Feb. 26.
“Healthcare funding in the Virgin Islands was under great stress even before the two hurricanes. Under Medicaid, the arbitrarily low FMAP rate (the rate at which the hospital gets reimbursed for providing cafe to Medicare and Medicaid patients) and the correspondingly high local matching requirement have imposed severe and unsustainable financial demands on the territory,” Bryan said.
“Ensuring access to quality affordable healthcare is one our administration’s key priorities,” Bryan said, adding “The administration will aggressively continue working with our federal partners in the recovery and rebuilding effort on behalf of the people of the territory.”
The Government of the Virgin Islands will undertake the project in collaboration with the Juan F. Luis Hospital. FEMA and the GVI are currently developing a fixed cost estimate for the succeeding medical facility.
JFL will continue to operate from the modular units installed on site to treat patients on St. Croix while the new structure is erected.