Tuesday, October 4, 2022
By DENISE MAYCOCK
WESTERN Atlantic School of Medicine (WASM) has invested $40m to date on its campus in Grand Bahama, surpassing the original heads of agreement investment of $13.5m for the first phase.
“We are 322 percent over our commitment on financial investment,” William Colgan, chairman of WASM, revealed yesterday at the school’s Freeport campus off East Sunrise Highway.
“Our original investment required by the government was $13.5m, and we spent $43.5m to date,” he said. “When you look at what our commitment was and where we are today, we have not fallen short of any commitment we made to the Bahamas.”
Mr Colgan believes that the medical school could attract more than 1,000 students to Grand Bahama. And, he added, it is expected that student spending would generate some $25m annually in the local economy by 2030.
Currently, there are just under 70 students attending the medical school.
Chairman Colgan estimates that each student generates between their families visiting and at the school, for housing and entertainment, an average of $25,000 per year per student. In terms of money spent, he said every faculty is at least $35,000.
“Based on those numbers by 2030, the economic benefit to GBI will be on an annual basis of up to $25m,” he said. “That would be $25m new dollars that will be spent on this island by 2030.”
Mr Colgan indicated that WASM has already completed 37,000 sq ft of academic building space, which is phase one. During phase two, the second academic building space will be 54,000 sq ft, and for the third phase, they will have somewhere around 200,000 sq ft of academic buildings at the campus.
“We had a serious commitment to the island and our commitment really is building a medical school. We spent about $40m to date invested in GBI and our vision is obviously to make a major statement. We believe we can build a world class academic institution here that can compete with any academic institution around the world,” he stated.
Mr Colgan said WASM acquired the site that was initially identified by PHA to build the new hospital in 2021 under the previous Minnis administration.
“They felt it was not going to be achievable, and therefore, they openly allowed us to (acquire) the land,” he explained.
“Even during the pandemic, with the supply chain challenges, we were able to build a magnificent facility.”
At WASM, the current building structure can accommodate up to 250 students. There are two lecture halls, each with the capacity to accommodate 168 students; six patient exam rooms; four simulation labs; and 28 faculty and staff offices, a library, and student lounge.
Plans are underway to clear land to begin construction of the second phase, Mr Colgan said. When completed, the school will be able to accommodate up to 600 students. Additionally, it would include three more lecture halls with 168-student capacities, six more patient exam rooms, an anatomical science lab, research room, and 12 additional faculty and staff offices, and student lounges.
According to Mr Colgan, WASM has also surpassed its commitments signed in the original HoA, in terms of construction and job creation.
The initial construction they negotiated was to build 14,000sq ft in phase one, but they completed 37,500 sq ft of space. In terms of jobs, he said they had committed to create at least 50 jobs.
“We are well on track, we have 50 full-time jobs as a result of that,” he said.
He also reported that 150 temporary construction jobs were also created during the construction period.
Mr Colgan said they had committed that in addition to the 50 full-time employees, WASM would grow that between five to 15 percent per year.
“When we complete phase two, we would have invested $62.7m, which is 161 percent over our commitment with regard to space being built,” he reported.
“We fully anticipate 100 percent Bahamian work force that will be utilised, and we would have more than doubled the amount of investment that we originally agreed with the government we would spend here on GB,” Mr Colgan said.
“For phase three, we committed to build at least 42,000 sq feet.
“By the end of phase three, we have already exceeded the investment of $37.1m in GBI in phase one that we promised to invest by the end of phase three,” Mr Colgan said.