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The Couva Hospital.

While United National Congress (UNC) chairman David Lee is pleased that the Couva Hospital will be used as part of Government’s COVID-19 action plan, he believes this also disproves Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh’s claims that the facility is nothing more than a construction site.

“We are happy that we are seeing the Couva facility is being used for that. It augers well for the citizenry. But this hospital should have been open a long time ago,” he said in a brief telephone interview with Guardian Media.

“What it also solidifies and substantiates is that the Couva has always . . . been ready and is in a ready state to be opened, so that if the minister is utilising the Couva facility in case of a major outbreak, then it tells the country that the Couva hospital has always been ready to accept patients.”

On Thursday, Deyalsingh said the Couva Hospital will be used as a centralised hub for treatment for those who may potentially be affected by the coronavirus.

“We must have a major medical facility which could be quarantined, locked down by security, that will be designated as a level, sort of three, facility because there now you have ICU capacity if needed, you have operating theatres if needed. That facility is currently being operationalised to do just that and has been for the past week or so,” he explained.

The hospital was opened in 2015 by the then Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship gov­ern­ment as a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal but was nev­er com­mis­sioned. Since the change in government shortly after, the facility has been a point of contention with the opposition criticising government’s failure to commission and utilise the TT$1.6 bil­lion facility. Government, especially the Minister of Health, claimed the facility was not feasible for operation due to several factors, including structural deficiencies. The hospital was opened last year as a Mul­ti-Train­ing Fa­cil­i­ty operationalised by the North Central Regional Health Authority in partnership with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the first phase, which includes the provision of advanced diagnostic imaging and pharmacy services, according to information on the UDeCOTT website.