Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has issued an executive order declaring a state of public exigency for Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, according to the hospital. The hospital was badly damaged in the 2017 hurricanes and was hobbled by serious plumbing and sewage issues before the storms. A state of exigency allows the government to bypass normal procurement rules for capital projects.
After the 2017 storms, water and wind damage led to the complete closure of the hospital’s third floor, which housed the medical and surgical units. There was a reduction in operating room services from three to one rooms, and a reduction in bed capacity from 80 to 46 beds, according to the hospital. There was also a loss of outpatient dialysis and interventional cardiology services.
During Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s administration, the territory procured a modular hospital with federal funding. But the modular hospital has not been fully furnished and supplied.
Furniture, fixtures and equipment were “removed from FEMA’s initial project worksheets” before the current hospital administration took office, according to a statement from Luis hospital.
The current hospital administration and acting CEO Dyma B. Williams, has worked with the Office of Disaster Recovery to outfit the modular hospital with the necessary furnishings and medical equipment to ensure it can begin operations by the scheduled May 2020 opening date.
For the longer term, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has determined JFL is eligible to be replaced although no funding has been approved to date. According to FEMA spokesperson Eric Adams, approval of funding is dependent of the territory’s provision of necessary documentation such as plans, specifications, estimates and so forth that FEMA has to review to determine eligible tasks and reasonable costs.
The public exigency declaration was issued to help the St. Croix hospital expedite the procurement process and complete emergency repairs in the Intensive Care Unit in order to reopen as soon as possible, hospital officials say.
Both Luis hospital and the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas are struggling with financial and staffing issues, partly due to loss of revenue after the storms and partly to the continuation of longstanding trends.
Bryan toured the St. Croix hospital recently and reportedly said the territory’s two hospitals are a top priority.
“We are continuing our work with the current leadership of both our hospitals to ensure that we have facilities that are able to appropriately provide for the health needs of the residents while we work on a long-term solution to improve health care in the territory,” Bryan said.
Williams said the hospital is eager to begin construction of the new building.
“In the meantime, we strive to maintain safe patient care in the current JFL facility,” she said.
Editor’s Note: This story initially, incorrectly, said funding was approved to build a new hospital. Funding may be available but approval has not happened yet and is dependent on fiscal controls and proper documentation, among other things.