The new Arima Hospital.

By early next week, the newly constructed Arima General Hospital will be ready for the admittance of COVID-19 patients.

The $1.2 billion hospital, equipped with 150 bed spaces, was built by China Railway Construction Company.

Of the 150 beds, ten will be placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and High Dependency Units.

COVID-19 patients who are deemed critical at Caura Hospital and Couva Hospital are warded at ICU and HDU.

Couva Hospital recently opened its doors to provide health care solely to COVID-19 cases.

The Arima Hospital will adopt the same approach.

Noel Garcia, chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) who managed the billion-dollar healthcare project beamed with pride yesterday during a telephone interview with Guardian Media, stating that the much-needed hospital was “complete and ready.”

Garcia gave details about the new facility, stating there are 15 ventilators which would be crucial in keeping severely ill coronavirus patients alive.

Construction of the facility began in September 2016 a year after the sod-turning ceremony. “We ran into problems with financing. The Exim Bank of China was supposed to finance it but the Government took a decision to put together a local consortium of banks and that local consortium financed the Arima Hospital and not the Chinese Exim Bank,” Garcia explained.

The facility comprises gynaecology, paediatrics, psychiatry, physiotherapy and internal medicine departments. There are also six operating theatres and a dialysis suite.

Yesterday, Udecott handed over the hospital to the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) under whose purview the hospital now falls.

He said the NRCHA and ministry would determine the number of beds to be used by patients who test positive for COVID-19.

At a press conference last week, Deyalsingh said the hospital will be equipped with 90 beds, four ICU and six HDU specifically for COVID-19 patients.

Guardian Media was told that the ministry is projected to accommodate COVID-19 cases early next week.

“Udecott has been able to fulfil the dream of Arimians and the dream of this present Government to provide a world-class health care system.”

Questioned when the hospital will be opened to the general population, Garcia said when the pandemic is over. Garcia said he was instructed by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh last month to prepare the hospital “in the event that it is needed in this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Garcia said the facility was reconfigured to accommodate such patients. “When this (virus) has passed we would have a formal opening and put it to use that is was designed for…that is a general hospital.”

Garcia said if Udecott is called upon by Deyalsingh to build additional but temporary bed spaces for COVID-19 patients should we be faced with a crisis, they will deliver.

“We are subject to the wishes of the Ministry of Health. Whatever the minister asks would be based on the advice of their technical people. Udecott is an implementing agency.”

Garcia said soon to follow would be the delivery of the Point Fortin Hospital.

By the end of April, the hospital will be operationalised “in the event again if it is needed.”

Whatsapp messages sent to NCRHA’s chairman Davlin Thomas were not responded to, while several calls went unanswered.

Deyalsingh also did not answer his phone but sent a message promising to return our call which he failed to do.