The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved the full replacement of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, which was severely damaged in the 2017 hurricanes, the V.I. Office of Disaster Recovery announced Wednesday.
“Replacement signals that the two-story cancer facility can be reconstructed to industry standards in accordance with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This approval will lead to the next step of determining the cost to rebuild the shuttered facility,” the office said in a press release.
The cancer institute is a vital component of the territory’s health care system. Prior to the 2017 hurricane season, it was the only option for residents to receive life-saving and sustaining medical treatment, the press release stated. Residents of the territory and visitors from other Eastern Caribbean islands have since been forced to travel long distances for critical adult and pediatric oncology services, it noted.
While the project continues the FEMA process for funding, the design phase for the new facility began in April, and construction could begin as early as the first quarter of 2022, according to the Office of Disaster Recovery.
“Through a shared goal of building a resilient healthcare system, FEMA, the staff at Schneider Regional Medical Center and the Office of Disaster Recovery herald this approval as a significant step forward,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, director of the office that was created a year after the September 2017 hurricanes to manage the deluge of recovery projects and attendant federal disaster funding.
“The Office of Disaster Recovery and the hospital redevelopment team remains focused on moving the project through the remaining steps so that construction can begin,” said Williams-Octalien.
“While rebuilding our Territorial Healthcare Facilities is vitally important to the entire Virgin Islands, providing quality, comprehensive and resilient Cancer Care with positive outcomes for our patients and residents is a major priority,” said Darryl A. Smalls, executive director of Hospital Facilities and Capital Development for the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team.
FEMA’s determination was based on a prudent replacement analysis, according to the press release. The evaluation process consisted of a thorough review of the documentation submitted by the territory, which outlined the interior and exterior damages, including the extensive mold growth, failed systems, infrastructure deficiencies and the facility’s pre-existing condition, it said.
The Territorial Hospital Board awarded EYP Architecture and Engineering the contract for designing the new Kimelman Institute as well as Schneider Regional Medical Center in October of 2020. The Kimelman portion was budgeted at $936,000 and Schneider at $5.8 million.
EYP commenced the design phase for the new facility in April and the Territorial Hospital Redevelopment Team has begun meeting with various internal stakeholders and will soon expand their collaborative efforts to include vitally important benefactors such as former and current users of its facilities, the press release stated.
Once the cost is agreed upon, the board will release a solicitation for the reconstruction of the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute and construction could begin as early as the first quarter of 2022, according to the Office of Disaster Recovery.