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‘Hospital deadline will be met’

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Last-minute touches were being done to complete the project.

NEARLY THERE: The new mental health hospital is 98 percent complete and is expected to be opened in June. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE CONTRACTOR Mota-Engil Construction South Africa and project managers of Kimberley’s new mental health hospital yesterday reassured Premier Sylvia Lucas, HOD for Health Stephen Jonkers, MEC for Roads and Public Works Mxolisi Sokatsha and opposition parties, who took a short tour of the R1.8 billion facility, that they would meet the set deadlines.

The Department of Health had indicated that the project would be handed over by March, while Lucas had set June as the handover date when she delivered her State of the Province address (Sopa) on Wednesday.

The contractor stated yesterday that everything was on track and that last-minute touches were being done to complete the project.

They indicated that the only outstanding features that needed attention were the landscaping and the forensic unit, which requires additional security measures.

The project manager, Louis Grammar, added that sophisticated security would be installed to monitor all movements inside the hospital as well as to prevent forensic psychiatric patients from entering forbidden areas.

Officials also explained that sections of the building had to be redesigned and rebuilt in terms of new legislation that was introduced.

Sokatsha stated that there were “no conflicts” with the completion date, saying that the briefing with the portfolio committee on health in Parliament earlier this year was attended by representatives who did not have the “background history”.

“We have briefed them from the time that the first contractors, Vista Park Developers, were on site and provided them with all the information.”

Lucas added that despite some concerns regarding the delays in finishing the project, she would ensure that the new mental health hospital would be completed before her term as premier has ended.

“It has taken 12 years to complete and I was intent on finding out who was holding up the project before Mota-Engil came on site.

“We are committed to deliver on what we set out to do. I don’t want people to say that they had to come after me with a bucket and a mop, to clean up my dirty work.

“I am impressed and I am sure that my colleagues agree with me that the project is 98 percent complete and that, God willing, it will be operational by August this year.

“Since the new company took over, their representatives have been in constant engagements all the time. We received a briefing in January that the practical completion date would be March.”

Lucas indicated that she had announced that the new hospital would be completed by June during her Sopa address on Wednesday as a result of “operational challenges”.

“Human resources still has the challenge of sourcing skilled staff including personnel who will be able to operate the high-technology equipment and security.

“It has nothing to do with construction. The same challenges were experienced at the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital in Upington and the De Aar Hospital.”

Lucas stated that she had to seek former president Jacob Zuma’s intervention when the national Department of Health wanted to withhold funds for the completion of the hospital.

“The president was not happy and he told me to write a two-page motivation, after which we won the co-operation of the Minister of Health and his department.”

Cope MPL Pakes Dikgetsi was yesterday also pleased with progress on the construction site.

“We now have an improved confidence that the construction will indeed be completed soon,” said Dikgetsi.

“This comes after 12 years of delays at a cost estimated in excess of R1.8 billion. It has seen five HODs and four MECs at the Department of Public Works since it was started. They have come and gone at the expense of mental health service delivery, which has seen some chronic patients kept in prisons.

“They will now have to ensure that there are no further delays to get the facility to operate efficiently. In this regard, Cope will keep them under close watch.”

DA provincial spokesperson for Health, Harold McGluwa, was cautiously optimistic.

“It does indeed appear that the hospital is finally on the verge of completion, as per the premier’s speech, at 98 percent,” he said.

“The premier has committed to have the facility up and running by June this year. We know, however, that there are a number of challenges that need to be resolved, not least of all a budgetary shortfall for operational costs.”

McGluwa urged Lucas to resolve the outstanding rates and taxes owed to Sol Plaatje Municipality which could jeopardise the handover of the facility to the Department of Health.

“Mental health care in the Northern Cape has been neglected for far too long. It is high time that this monument to corruption be transformed into a symbol of hope for those suffering from mental illness.”

The chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, reminded government that it had yet to purchase equipment, medicine and running stock.

“Procurement as well as the advertisement, recruitment and selection of staff could take a while. They must ensure that this hospital does not end up as another white elephant,” he urged.

DA MPL Ismail Obaray meanwhile believes that the expenditure has far exceeded R1.8 billion.

“We do not want a repeat of the Dr Harry Surtie Hospital that has no staff. Government must also take into account the massive wastage of money due to the delays.”