Public Works updates on construction progress of COVID-19 projects
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Renovation work has started for upgrading a wing at the Health Department’s compound in Fagaalu that will be used to house patients at the hospital’s Behavior Health Center, which has been identified by LBJ Medical Center as an isolation facility in the event residents get infected with coronavirus.
Public Works director, Faleosina Voigt provided an update on the status of DPW COVID-19 project related activities, which include construction of two, 10-unit quarantine facilities behind the DoH’s Tafuna Community Health Center.
At a recent cabinet meeting, LBJ chief executive officer, Faumuina John Faumuina recalled the hospital’s response and action plan — which has been presented to the ASG COVID-19 Task Force and identifies that the 10-room Behavioral Health Center building would be converted to isolate and hospitalize coronavirus patients.
However, he said the Behavioral Health patients cannot be released to go home, if the facility is converted, because these individuals are there by order of the court. And there are also other legal issues requiring these patients remain housed at the Behavioral Health Center.
After discussions with DoH officials, Faumuina said DoH has identified a wing, or building, at their Fagaalu compound to house these patients, if and when the need arises. Faumuina pointed out that there is a need to get the DoH wing upgraded as soon as possible.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga then instructed DPW to expedite construction work to renovate the identified DoH wing and all expenses relating to this project and other ASG quarantine facilities would be included in ASG’s coronavirus report for federal funding.
At last Friday’s coronavirus meeting, Voigt explained that renovation work to covert the DoH wing to house Behavioral Health patients has already started with a time frame of about two months to two-and-half months for completion.
LBJ’s COVID-19 proposed budget, which is included in the ASG’s $16.9 million coronavirus proposals submitted to the federal government, includes an estimated $850,000 for construction to covert the 10 rooms at the Center to “Negative Pressure Rooms” — which remains at 10. LBJ also proposed $20,000 for education and training of staff for COVID-19.
Regarding the construction of the quarantine facility at Tafuna, Voigt said, the construction for the two, 10 units are ongoing. The first 10-unit facility construction began more than six weeks ago.
She said this type of project usually takes about 6 months to complete but the contractors are working to hopefully have it complete in two or three months. She explained that construction of the second, 10-unit facility began two weeks ago.
According to the DPW director, these two-units are double occupancy, that means each unit has a capacity of 20 and the two units will have the capacity of 40.
The governor urged DPW to ensure these quarantine facilities are completed as soon as possible, as the global COVID-19 threat continues.
Meanwhile, the governor informed DPW and other agencies that the COVID-19 pandemic should not stop other major ongoing government projects, including those funded with Capital Improvement Project (CIP) money.