he Schneider Regional Medical Center’s reconstruction in St. Thomas is poised to break the $700 million mark, shares Adrienne Octalien-Williams, the steward at the V.I. Office of Disaster Recovery. A recent discussion with the Public Finance Authority Board of Directors threw light on the steady progress of this massive undertaking.
Early in the year, the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team’s Executive Director of Facilities and Capital Development, Darryl Smalls, addressed the Senate Committee on Disaster Recovery, Infrastructure, and Planning. He expressed that the financial details for the revamped hospital would be ironed out by September. Validating this timeline, Mrs. Octalien-Williams recently assured the PFA board of the developments. “Our discussions with FEMA are in the final stages, working out the definite cost,” she articulated. She also revealed that preliminary strides in the architectural domain of the project have commenced.
The strategy, as outlined by the ODR head, revolves around refurbishing the medical center around its present blueprint. This approach involves leveraging ‘swing spaces’ to ensure an uninterrupted flow of operations. Post the construction of the new edifice, plans are to dismantle the old one. PFA Board’s Chair, Governor Albert Bryan Jr., drew attention to the scale of this endeavor. He juxtaposed it against a recent $40 million waterfront project that spanned three years. “We’re looking at a cost exponentially higher, nearly 20-fold. The real challenge here is amassing the requisite workforce,” he remarked, emphasizing the hurdles due to the current labor scarcity, especially for projects of such magnitude.
To circumvent this hurdle, ODR has crafted a strategy to amalgamate projects. The intent is to rope in bigger contracting entities, well-versed in steering hefty construction tasks worth millions, informed Octalien-Williams. She added a pertinent point — the punctual completion of the Schneider Regional Medical Center hinges on these firms’ prowess to amass a sizable workforce. Board member Dorothy Isaacs weighed in, speculating that the endeavor might span a decade from the groundbreaking ceremony to its inauguration.
Nonetheless, with a note of optimism, Octalien-Williams opined that should effective solutions to the workforce deficit emerge, the timeline could potentially be compacted to a window of five to seven years.