People of Jersey, do you want less for more?

Comment: By Stephen Regal

25th February 2021

We are about to embark upon the replacement of our lovely but aging General Hospital in Gloucester Street with a new hospital to be built at Overdale. Irrespective of the design of our new hospital it is clear from the extremely limited design brief that our Government has published, that it envisages an Acute Hospital, not the General Hospital the New Hospital that it is replacing.

These are very different entities serving the Community in very differing ways.

Effectively, as far as I am able to gather from the extremely poorly presented design brief, this means, therefore, there shall be no rehabilitation unit, no physiotherapy unit, little or no dentistry unit, and a plethora of services reduced from what is currently provided. These shall be outsourced to “Closer to Home” as part of the proposed Jersey Care Model derived from the UK NHS.

The NHS model dating from 1948 was a supremely excellent model for the period, however, it is obvious to all, that despite its qualities it is fading around the edges, particularly in respect of the outsourcing of the periphery objectives. Precisely the type of healthcare system that our imported “advisors” envisage for Jersey.

Our existing general hospital has catered superbly for generations of Islanders covering all but extreme specialist critical conditions which have generally and correctly been outsourced to the mainland. This is about to change for an inferior system at a cost we are informed of the better part of a Billion pounds! In reality that means around £10,000 for every man woman and child on the Island, money that our Government is rather reticent about informing us how it shall be managed to be paid for, to be frank from my perspective Government too has absolutely no inkling of this as well.   

2.0 People of Jersey, Do You Want the Jersey Care Model, a second-rate copy of a dysfunctional NHS?     

The creation of the new hospital is now irreversibly linked with the Jersey Care Model being pushed forward by the Government of Jersey. Thus, the Council of Ministers, against the privately and extensively expressed wishes of the vast majority of the active medical professionals, from Consultants to Doctors in General Practice, to Dispensing Pharmacists, to Dentists, the vast majority of whom feel at best unease, with this move and in particular, some with absolute horror at the implications.

We are being pushed unwillingly towards a Jersey version of the UK National Health Service. There are many fine qualities to the National Service, but equally, there are indeed some serious drawbacks, for instance, massive waiting times for GP attendance, serious delays for childhood dentistry, lack of selection for one’s doctor of choice, is this the way forward for us in Jersey where we already have a working system, admittedly imperfect but for us in our small Island one that satisfies most of our population most of the time?

So, I ask do you want a system that does not match the one that we have already?

A new system where recovering patients are sent home for recovery for visiting medical professionals, some patients living alone with little or no constant care and attendance. At home without direct access to specialist care and equipment that patients currently receive in our existing General Hospital as part of our existing healthcare arrangements. A system in which children who require the services of an orthodontist may have to wait for inordinate times as they do in the UK, a service that our current General Hospital provides on a regular and regulated basis.

As a result of the advice of various consultants recruited from the UK and employed by the Government of Jersey, individuals who lack knowledge of our unique circumstances, our elected politicians in their relentless drive for savings as a result of their continuing mismanagement of our finances, are changing the entire manner of how community healthcare is managed, a change for the worse at a conceivably greater cost

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3.0 People of Jersey, do you really want to spend anywhere between 15 and 40 million pounds on a road to nowhere?     

Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary, it has become apparent that Government is pushing forward with the proposed revised access route from Cheapside to Overdale via Westmount.

It has become apparent from the meeting of the Community Liaison Group (see the apparent irony in the title!) that despite assurances, Government continues to roll out the design Option 7 for the new “super highway!” up to the site of the new hospital at a cost of anywhere between £15 million and £40 million in spite of simple cost-effective and efficient remedies being suggested to Government that would cost in the region of tens of thousands of pounds. However, these apparently fail to match the Government’s imperatives.

Construction of the new road involves the loss of up to Thirteen private dwelling houses (some of them virtually brand new!) and the consequential emotional loss to the individuals who live in the houses. Imagine if this were to be your pride and joy to be Compulsory Purchased, any amount paid can never compensate for this.

In addition, there is the loss of, according to the Government’s own report, of some 2,500 square metres of tree cover, a beautiful sylvan walk enjoyed by many gone to be replaced by effectively a mini motorway!

In addition, there shall be the loss of part of Jersey’s history, the old gallows hill and the area where Major Pierson mustered his troops before defeating the French at the Battle of Jersey in the Royal Square, of course, none of this matters to the hired guns employed by our Government to plan our future!

Not only these issues but the loss of the Bowling Club and the bowling green a place of harmony close to the heart of the metropolis that St Helier has become. Yes, this is to be replaced at Warwick Farm so we are told, but is this necessary? If the access road is managed properly and soberly there is absolutely no requirement for it to be reconstructed.

And finally, the prime insult of all, the loss of great swathes of the Peoples’ Park the retention of which was one of the reasons cited for moving the Hospital from Gloucester Street up to Overdale. This area of Public activities shall now become an island, more or less surrounded by roaring traffic and thus unable to sustain itself. 

4.0 People of Jersey, do you Want our hard-earned cash squandered on a project that apparently our elected officials are afraid to tell us all about it?   

4.0 People of Jersey, do you Want our hard-earned cash squandered on a project that apparently our elected officials are afraid to tell us all about it?     

Having read the sparse information published by the Government of Jersey upon the proposed (and I believe Contracted) build costs of the New Hospital at Overdale I am surprised by the price of this facility. I have undertaken significant research into the cost of hospital Construction throughout the UK and somehow the published information fails to bear suitable comparison with hospitals of similar nature to that being envisaged here in Jersey with others either in build or completed in the UK.

I fully concede that I am not in possession of the full facts, neither, of course, do I believe that the members of the States Assembly due to approve the expenditure possess sufficient information. But there again most of them are not Construction Professionals as was I for more than fifty years until my retirement more than two years ago.

The entire process surrounding the design and build of the new Hospital (despite its name “Our Hospital”) has been shrouded in secrecy and obfuscation from the outset, perhaps this is the aim of course?

However, entering into a Contract even at the stated price of £412.2 million-plus the inordinate Contingent costs in the region of a further £250 million absolutely beggars belief when hospitals of a similar capacity (if only even this would be stated unequivocally!) in the UK have been built for significantly less cost.

What is of course required is an injection of common sense and simplicity for example the following brief questions can be provided on a one-page document:

  • How big is the new hospital?
  • How many beds?
  • What and how many specialisations?
  • How large is and proposed administration building?
  • How much car parking?
  • Are there to be spaces for league of friends and others?
  • Is there room for future expansion?

We, the taxpayers are expected to pay for the property, is it not unreasonable to ask?

Stephen Regal

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