Plans for a $1-million mental health facility in East End face further delays with government re-opening the bidding process for construction of the new development.
The long-term residential facility, viewed as essential to addressing a gap in healthcare provision for people with mental illness, was originally expected to open last summer. Government is now aiming for a 2020 opening.
Planning approval has already been granted for a cluster of cottages around a central administration building and an orchard on 15 acres in East End.
In October last year, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Health Jennifer Ahearn said government was in the midst of a tender process for the construction of the facility. Now that process appears to have stalled and a new request for proposals has been issued.
Government gave no indication of why the initial tender process had been discarded, though it is understood to be connected to labor shortages and increased construction costs amid an islandwide development boom.
The works have now been split into five jobs in an effort to encourage small- and medium-sized firms to bid, the Ministry of Health said in a press statement Friday. There are five “packages” of works, including enabling works, construction of the three clusters of cottages and construction of the main building.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said this would make the project more manageable for smaller firms.
“We believe that making projects like this accessible to all sizes of business is a critical part of supporting our local economy in a sustainable way,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Seymour was not immediately available to respond to questions on the matter over the weekend.
Contractors have until March 22 to submit bids. According to the statement, it is expected that contracts will be awarded to the successful bidders on the first three packages this year, with work set to begin in late 2019. The final two packages will be tendered in 2020 and are expected to be completed the same year.
Dr. Marc Lockhart, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, told the Cayman Compass earlier this year that he believed the increased construction on the island had made it difficult to secure a satisfactory contract with the major contracting firms.
“It seems the discussions were not fruitful,” he said in an interview. “It’s very frustrating for me but much more frustrating for the patients.”
Mental health capacity has reached a critical point for Cayman patients, he said. The mental health ward at the Cayman Islands Hospital, the only such unit on the island, has just eight beds.
Overflow patients have to be housed in other areas of the hospital while those who need longer-term care are often forced to go off island. So far this year, 13 patients have been sent to Jamaica.
Despite the lack of actual construction, Lockhart said he believes ministry officials are committed to the new facility.
“The powers that be are very concerned with getting this back on track as fast as possible,” he said.
The tender documents are available via the Cayman Islands Government online procurement portal https://cayman.bonfirehub.com/portal/?tab=openOpportunities. Interested contractors may email Senior Project Manager [email protected] for any further details.