Groundbreaking on a new residential health facility in East End has been delayed by at least several months, according to an official close to the project.
When approval for the project was announced in March, government officials said groundbreaking was planned during the summer. That has not happened.
Dr. Marc Lockhart, chairman of the Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission, said groundbreaking is not expected now until after the first of the year. He said he has been told the delay is a result of “fine tuning and final negotiations” between the government and the companies doing the construction.
“It is not an issue regarding budget or commitment,” he said.
In response to a request for information from the Ministry of Health on the delay, Chief Officer Jennifer Ahearn said in an emailed statement: “We are currently in the tendering process for the construction of the facility and will be sure to update the public once we have concluded that process.
The $1 million project planned on 15 acres in East End will have nine cottages, each of which can house six patients, and a central building for administration, dining and activities. It will also feature an orchard and vegetable garden.
The facility was expected to be completed in late 2019. Dr. Lockhart said it appears that time frame will be pushed back by “a few months.”
Any delay, he said, creates additional problems for those providing inpatient mental health services. Cayman Islands Hospital has just eight beds for mental health patients, and those beds are frequently full, he said.
“The [average] level of occupancy is at 83 percent,” he said, noting that demand is increasing. A year ago, the average was 69 percent.
Overflow patients have to be housed in other areas of the hospital. Nurses on those wards do not always have the time needed for such patients.
“The level of care may not be adequately provided,” Dr. Lockhart said.
In addition to seeing an increase in patients, particularly in age groups 19 and under, he said, more patients are needing long-term care, something that is difficult to provide in a setting not dedicated to addressing such needs.
Government officials, he said, are aware of the critical nature of the problem.
“We do work closely with the ministry,” he said. “I do give them updates all the time. I let them know the urgency of the demand.”
While he is pleased a dedicated facility is on the horizon, he acknowledged, “Any delay is still a challenge for us.”