DILIL, 12 May 2020 (TATOLI) – The Ministry of Public Works will fast-track the rehabilitation of the old Lahane Hospital, transforming it into an isolation site for the most severe cases of COVID-19.
Previously-budgeted rehabilitation at the site at the foothills of Dili would be brought forward, according to the Minister for Public Works, Salvador Soares dos Reis Pires.
“The Prime Minister has called for [us] to see rehabilitation of the hospital which the Integrated Crisis Management Centre [CIGC] proposes to rehabilitate patients with COVID-19,” he said yesterday, after meetings with Taur Matan Ruak.
According to a 2015 book on Timor-Leste’s architectural heritage by Flávio Miranda and Isabel Boavida, the hospital was completed in the 1860s.
It was expanded in the 1950s and fully renovated in the 1960s. But it fell into disrepair during Indonesian occupation, serving as a squat for officers.
The Ministry of Health had earmarked the derelict António de Carvalho Hospital to become a facility for haemodialysis treatment and other health services.
Minister Pires said US $300,000 had been set aside in the 2019 General State Budget to fund the repairs, new equipment and health facilities.
Construction firm Barnabak, which won the tender for the project, is studying ways to increase the accommodation capacity of the hospital, he said.
But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Pires said he now considers rehabilitation urgent, and very important to help the CIGC to treat patients with the virus.
The coordinator to CIGC’s Rapid Response team, Aurelio Guterres, said the prime minister has asked for work to continue as a matter of priority.
“Last week the process was ready and we hope that in two weeks, the Ministry of Health can [begin] the process of rehabilitation… [for] an isolation site, especially for severe cases” of COVID-19, he said.
Mr Guterres announced on Monday health authorities would close most of the quarantine sites across the country, and re-purpose them as isolation centres, with specialised medical care.
There are just six patients remaining in isolation, at the Vera Cruz Community Health Centre in Dili.
24 people have tested positive, with 18 confirmed and four “probable” cases having since recovered.
Journalists: Eugénio Pereira
Editors: Robert Baird, Francisco Simões
Translation: Nelia Borges