altBridgetown, Barbados, 6th April 2016 - The United Kingdom has finalized a cost extension to the existing Smart Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project in the amount of £30 million. The addition funding will provide for safer and greener health facilities in the Caribbean to deliver care in emergencies and disasters, generate operational savings, reduce disaster losses and contribute to climate change mitigation.

In May 2015 the Pan American Health Organization received approval from UK aid in the amount of 8.3 million pounds to retrofit 2-3 health care facilities each in Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica. Considering the benefits and importance of this project to the region and its ability to establish a platform for linking disaster risk reduction and climate change the UK Prime Minister announced in September 2015 that the UK government will provide additional funding to extend the project to include Belize, Guyana and Jamaica and increase support in existing target countries.

Speaking on the progress made so far, Dr. Ciro Ugarte, PAHO Director of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response programme said, "Since the launch of the project PAHO has been able to assess over 150 health facilities in the initial four countries. These assessments included the application of the Hospital Safety Index that examined structural, non-structural and functional components of the facilities as well as energy and water consumption, indoor air quality, waste, and chemical management using the Smart Toolkit that was developed in 2014".

Dr Ugarte further explained, "The results of the assessments have been formally shared with all Ministries of Health and the Pan American Health Organization is now awaiting feedback on the results before the reports are formally taken to the project Steering Committee for approval".

altThe assessment were carried out by the project team over a period of 10 months and involved the use of a multi sectoral team with various skills and national expertise who were trained to apply the tools. This initial phase of the Smart Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project seeks to identify suitable facilities that can be retrofitted to make them resilient and climate-adapted through the application of interventions aimed at reducing the vulnerability of facilities and their impact on the environment.

UK aid Climate and Environmental Advisor, Simone Banister, explained how the funding will be utilized: "In the event of a disaster, it is critical that health facilities remain operational to treat the sick and injured and we reduce the risk that they are damaged by the disaster itself. It is expected that by 2020 a total of 50 health facilities in these countries will be safer and greener and over 600 will be assessed and findings documented for future improvements in an online database. The bulk of UK funds will be used for refurbishment work to ensure that health facilities across the seven countries, in the Caribbean, are better able to withstand multiple natural disasters and climate variability. This will include building work such as strengthening roofs and structures, installing hurricane shutters and improving storm drainage, access and fire safety, installing energy and water conservation devises, replacing internal components with environmentally friendly surfacing and improving lighting and indoor air quality. Technical support will also be provided to ensure that appropriate disaster response plans and equipment are in place for each facility and maintenance and conservation procedures are established and utilized".

Special attention will also be paid to transfer of knowledge and to increase capacity and public awareness in the targeted countries with an intensive public relations and training strategy already in place.

In 2013 the project was piloted at the Georgetown Hospital in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and at the Pogson Hospital in St. Kitts. The results of the retrofitting works showed significant community support and buy in as well as significant reduction in water and energy consumption to as much as 64%. In the case of the Georgetown Hospital the facility was able to function throughout passage of a severe Tropical Storm and served as the main operating health care facility on the Windward Side of the island, even providing water for the affected communities.

Ms. Banister expressed her excitement about the project extension: "This is the first time that this innovative '2-in-1' integrated approach, combining disaster safety and greening, has been used in the region and there is considerable interest in developing it as a global model for the health and the wider public sector", she said.

The World Health Organization and other agencies are already adopting the "smart" assessment toolkit developed under this programme. The Smart concept is also being used in the education sector to establish Smart Schools.

This £38m commitment demonstrates the UK's assurance to the safety and future wellbeing of the people of the Caribbean and PAHO's commitment to ensuring resilient health facilities.