Several issues have stalled the set up of mobile hospital and dialysis units in the territory, and the facilities will not be ready before the start of the hurricane season on June 1, according to V.I. Health Commissioner Michelle Davis.
“There are some things you just don’t have control over. There’s a lot of moving pieces and this is like, so new for everybody at this point in time — we’ve never had to manipulate too many things at the same time — but we’re still on track,” Davis said.
The territory’s hospitals and health care infrastructure on all three islands suffered catastrophic damage in hurricanes Irma and Maria, and officials have been working to restore services and enable those evacuated out of the territory for medical reasons to return home.
While the department had hoped to have the necessary temporary units already in place, the current timeline is “for all of this to be up and running by the end of August,” Davis said.
For example, mobile units for Luis Hospital on St. Croix had been anticipated in March, but weren’t delivered until April 3, Davis said.
The mobile operating rooms were held up by rough weather.
“There were horrible waves and water, so the barge couldn’t make its way from North Carolina,” on time, Davis said.
And even though the operating rooms are currently sitting in the parking lot at Luis, they can’t be used until a contractor is hired to complete the necessary installation process.
“What’s on the ground now are temporary operating rooms, but we need a contract for a firm to actually come and set it up — pave the ground, do whatever they need to do to set it up, hook it up to electricity, the water, whatever needs to be done — so we need a firm to do that,” Davis said.
Davis said rumors about cancelled contracts are false, and contracts for mobile unit installation and dialysis units were never completed and are still out to bid with a deadline of May 16.
“There were never any finalized contracts. The bids weren’t done the way they should have been, so we had to rebid it,” Davis said. “Let’s just say, all of the dice weren’t lined up at the same time, ok? We tried.”
Davis said Schneider Hospital on St. Thomas is awaiting a temporary hospital unit but does not require a mobile operating room, dialysis units, or emergency room.
Myrah Keating on St. John is also going to receive a temporary hospital unit, Davis said.
Luis Hospital, on the other hand, has already received delivery of temporary operating rooms, but the department is still working to contract with a company capable of setting them up.
“In terms of the dialysis units, no other state had dialysis units with enough chairs, so we actually have to lease dialysis units,” Davis said. “In terms of the dialysis centers, we do not have those yet. We had put a bid out but we had to cancel the bid, so there never were any contracts to cancel. Once the bids are back out, we will select a bidder, and then the winner of that bid will then get a contract that FEMA will pay for, and then they will get the dialysis units here and get those set up. And then it’s the same process for the temporary modular hospitals, FEMA is paying for that but we have to put the bid out for all of the various components — you have to have an engineering firm, and an architecture firm, and a construction firm.”
Patients are receiving dialysis at the Caribbean Kidney Centers on St. Thomas and St. Croix, and “we’re using full capacity at Schneider,” but “Juan Luis is doing no dialysis unless it’s emergency dialysis, and then the person either goes over to CKC or they go to Schneider, or they have to be sent off-island,” Davis said.