Contractors chosen for mental health facility

This rendering shows the planned long-term mental health facility that has been delayed in East End.

Ministry of Health officials say contractors have been picked for the delayed long-term mental health facility in East End, and construction is expected to begin in October.

Plans originally called for construction of the 54-patient residential hospital to start in the summer of 2018 with completion expected by the fall of 2019. A problem with the initial bidding process helped set the timeline back. The project was subsequently broken into pieces and put out to bid a second time.

Bids on those projects have now been approved, contract negotiations are under way and groundbreaking is slated to take place in October, with the doors opening in the second quarter of 2021.

Ron Wilson’s Equipment, Phoenix Ltd. and AAA Construction Ltd. are the firms that will be doing the work. Principal architect, Alice Liang, is an expert in purpose-built facilities for mental health patients. Architecture consultants DDL Studio is the local firm working in conjunction with Liang’s firm, Montgomery Sisam.

Originally estimated at $16 million to $20 million, the bids from the three contractors, each of whom will build a different portion of the facility, total $15 million. Furnishing for the facility will be put out to bid early next year.

The compound will consist of nine cottages and a central administration building.

“Though the delays have been frustrating for us all, it has allowed the Ministry of Health to ensure that we get a project of this magnitude right in the best economical way,” Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said in a statement. “This project is about so much more than bricks and mortar. It is our mission to ensure access to quality, affordable healthcare, as well as to build stronger communities and support the most vulnerable in our society.”

Dr. Marc Lockhart, chairman of the Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission, said he’s pleased to see things moving forward on what he says is a badly needed addition to Cayman’s health community.

“We needed this yesterday,” Lockhart said. “We needed this 10 years ago. We have a human mental health crisis at this moment.”

Currently, there are only eight in-patient beds at Cayman Islands Hospital for mental patients. Those needing sustained in-patient service are sent off island, typically to Jamaica. Lockhart said there are 15 such patients now in Jamaica.

He said he is grateful for the community and key government leaders who have helped push the mental health facility project forward. After months of frustration, he said he is feeling more positive construction will finally start.

“I’m much more confident than I was 48 hours ago,” he said on Friday. “The need is so great, it’s a moral imperative for us to get this done.”

If you value our service, if you have turned to us in the past few days or weeks for verified, factual updates, if you have watched our live streaming of press conferences or sent an article to a friend... please consider a donation. Quality local journalism was at risk before the coronavirus crisis. It is now deeply threatened. Even a small amount can go a long way to sustaining our mission of informing the public. We need our readers’ financial support now more than ever.