In September 2017, the heavy rain and strong winds of hurricanes Irma and Maria significantly damaged U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) facilities across the territory. These two Category 5 storms caused catastrophic structural damage. Many buildings sustained roof damage and were left flooded and ridden with mold. Some structures had to be demolished to prepare for temporary facility construction.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to help the territory rebuild. “We utilized the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) and Public Assistance Alternative Procedures for permanent work to restore medical facilities in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Herbert Grigg, FEMA Public Assistance group supervisor of Health, Utilities and Transportation. “The BBA provides FEMA more flexibility in determining eligible work for Public Assistance Alternative Procedures projects to restore facilities that provide critical services.”
Critical services include hospitals and other healthcare facilities that provide emergency medical care as well as services, schools and facilities that provide power, water and other types of critical services.
FEMA-funded healthcare facility reconstruction projects include:
- Charles Harwood Medical Center, St. Croix: FEMA approved the replacement of all seven buildings that comprise The Charles Harwood Medical Complex: the main building, annex, clubhouse, motor pool building; storage building, and the Emergency Medical Services permanent and maintenance buildings. Through FEMA’s Public Assistance program, $251 million has been obligated for facility replacement, architectural and engineering costs, the installment of modular facilities, a walkway, and a temporary parking lot.
- Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, St. Croix: FEMA obligated $111.4 million for a 101-bed temporary structure at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital, architectural and engineering design costs and to increase space for administrative purposes.
- Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, St. Thomas: FEMA obligated $45 million for facility replacement and architectural and engineering costs, including nearly $171,000 for hazard mitigation measures to protect against impacts from future events such as an upgraded generator which will provide power to the facility if the main system fails. Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute provided cancer treatment to U.S. Virgin Islanders and to the Eastern Caribbean region. Services included comprehensive outpatient diagnostic and treatment, clinical, patient support and more.
- Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, St. John: The Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center on St. John provides urgent and primary care services to residents of the island. This includes maternal healthcare services, services to expectant mothers, pediatric patients and newborns. In June, FEMA approved the replacement of the permanent facility. FEMA obligated $695,000 for the architectural and engineering design costs to the replacement facility.
Critical service facilities must be able to withstand multiple hazards as they serve as the backbone to lifesaving and life sustaining operations. While the 2017 storms left damage and devastation across the territory — progress is being made,
Through the strength of continued efforts and strong partnerships between the territory, FEMA and its federal partners together will ensure healthcare facilities are built back stronger and more resilient to protect against hazards from future storms.