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Lawmakers Tour Closed Frederiksted Clinic

April 28, 2009 — The Ingebord Nesbitt Clinic in Frederiksted, shuttered now for more than a year, will reopen. But when and at what cost are still to be determined.
"The thing that the people of Frederiksted, the community, wants to know, is when?" said Al Franklin, president of Our Town Frederiksted, Tuesday as a group of lawmakers, legislative aides, community members and officials from the Frederiksted Health Center (FHC), which runs the clinic, toured the facility. "When is the clinic going to be reopened?"
The tour, led by FHC Chief Executive Officer Massare Webster, was organized by Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, and included Sen. Sammuel Sanes and legislative aides for most of the members of the committee. Also on hand were Lena Schulterbrandt, chairman of the FHC board, and community members Franklin and George Flores.
The purpose of the tour was to get a feel for the scope of the work necessary to reopen the clinic. The committee will hold a hearing May 18 in the Fritz Lawaetz Conference Room in Frederiksted to discuss a variety of health and health facility issues in the territory.
According to Webster, when the clinic was first closed last year the plan was to clean the mold problems, and approximately $250,000 was secured through the Public Financing Authority. But when Public Works provided a survey of the building, they learned "$250,000 doesn't come close to covering the costs," Webster said.
Instead, Public Works estimated the cost of all the work that needs to be done at about $1 million. They could spend the $250,000 and open the doors, but they'd be back in just a few years to do it all again, along with all the other work that would still need to be done.
To deal with the problems, the board of directors of FHC voted to pay for the balance, $750,000, as an investment to finish the work that needs to be done.
The project has gone out to bid, and Webster said she hopes the contract will be signed in a few weeks. But if the costs come in even higher than anticipated, she said she's not sure what the next step will be, but reaffirmed, "We are committed to getting this building open."
Walking down deserted corridors in which ceiling tiles had been removed, wiring festooning down, the lawmakers looked up into crawl spaces where buckets hung from leaking pipes, catching dripping water. Water is also leaking from the roof, and there are electrical problems as well as air-conditioning problems and trouble with the sprinklers, the visitors were told.
In a room with a door marked "Records," file folders spilled from the shelf, mixing wth boxes and piles of more file folders. Mail still sat in mail slots, at least one envelope dated from 2007.
Standing back outside after the walk-through, Sprauve said he is confident the clinic will be reopened, but it's difficult to put a timetable on it beyond Webster's hopeful, "the latter part of the year."
Flores said he and the rest of the community will not rest until the Ingebord Nesbitt Clinic is reopened to provide health care to the island's west end.
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