Did the roof of the Point Fortin Area Hospital in Trinidad contain asbestos? Nobody knows for sure. Toward the end of February, part of the building’s ceiling collapsed. When maintenance personnel undertook repairs, they found what they were afraid was asbestos sheeting. One worker said: “Asbestos has been removed from several buildings in the past because it is deemed to be a health hazard and so we want the asbestos removed from the building.” Now, they want local health authorities to look into the matter. Apparently, there is no-one in Trinidad who is qualified to deal with asbestos, however. In response to the potential health hazard, Trinidad ‘s Southwest Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has apparently decided that the matter calls for “immediate discussion.” The Point Fortin Area Hospital is a relatively small, 51-bed facility located in San Fernando. It was originally constructed in the late 1950s by the Shell Oil Company in collaboration with the British government when Trinidad was a territory of Great Britain.
Trinidad gained its independence in 1962, officially becoming the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Subsequently, its oil industry was nationalized, and the hospital became a public institution. Aside from the fact that asbestos was used around the world in the construction of virtually every type of building and almost every industrial application, the oil industry–which still forms the basis of the Trinidadian economy–has a long legacy of asbestos use, due to the fact that fire and explosion is a constant danger. Today, it is perhaps the most prosperous and politically stable nation in the Caribbean; the current government is committed to returning the country to an agrarian economic base while achieving “developed nation status” by 2020. Despite this nation’s remarkable achievements, it has a ways to go in a few respects. Not only are there apparently no qualified asbestos contractors in Trinidad , but according to one Trinidadian blogger, members of the legal profession in that country lack competence. In an entry, he wrote: “Thank God we do not have class action lawsuits for Asbestos, Mesothelioma or Fen-Phen, because the Treasury would go bust.” In the meantime, the head of the SWRHA has told the media that the “matter has been referred to an international company for advice.”