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UWI taps new investor after CHEC drops $70b projects

Jamaica Gleaner / The University of the West Indies (UWI)says it will be reconstructing the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) from its own resources and has sourced a new investor to deliver projects previously pledged by China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which has backed out of the partnership.

UWI signed an agreement with American firm Seebury last week.

UWI and CHEC signed a memorandum of understanding in August 2015 for several projects valued at $60 billion to $70 billion at the Mona campus, the centrepiece of which would have been a transformation of UHWI, a teaching hospital.

Plans under the broad redevelopment programme included the reconstruction of the hospital, expanding it from a 500-bed to a modernised 1,000-bed facility; a student centre with an auditorium, which would double as an indoor sports facility; a small hotel to replace the Mona Visitors’ Lodge; the completion of the cogeneration plant; and reconstruction of College Commons housing for staff.

But one year later, the agreement with CHEC has expired, with none of the projects even started, Professor Archibald McDonald told Gleaner Business .

UWI will now build the hospital itself over a longer time frame and has engaged Seebury to fulfil some of the other elements of the redevelopment programme for the campus, McDonald said.

“We had discussions over a long period of time [with CHEC]. My understanding is that they needed sign- off from government officials in China, but it appears they did not get that approval,” he said. “It’s been difficult, but we are pressing on.”

Seebury will install LED lights across the campus before taking on the second phase of the energy project installing the engine in the cogeneration plant. It will also build the student centre.

Reconstruction of the hospital should begin “in the first part of 2017,” said McDonald.

“We are doing that out of our own resources,” he said of the funding for the hospital.

Essentially, the UHWI will end up with a hospital, he said.

“The cost will remain the same but spread over a longer period of time. It will be over a number of years and maybe in five phases. CHEC would have completed it in a year or two, but it will take us a much longer time,” he said.

UWI is still in talks with potential investors in Jamaica and overseas for the small hotel.

“We have nothing for that one yet, but it is still on the table,” McDonald said.

As for the other projects under way at UWI, Mona, the plan to wean the university off the National Water Commission (NWC) has been realised with the two wells, drilled by North Star Development in the hills behind College Commons, set to be commissioned in December.

With a 500,000-gallon-per-day water consumption rate, the Mona campus has, for some time, been exploring options to rid itself of the hefty bills it gets from the NWC.

North Star struck water at 850 feet. The wells produce 750,000 gallons per day, far exceeding the needs of campus.

Irvine Hall was demolished last week to make room for the new hall being built by 138 Student Living Jamaica’s subsidiary company, 138 SL Restoration. The new hall to be built will accommodate 1,100 students, up from 200. The initial plan had been to add 600 rooms.

The agreement will see 138 SL Restoration spending some $2 billion to finance the project under a 30-year concession agreement with the university to finance, build, and operate the residential hall.

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