BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, October 30, 2016
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Like many others at the time, Calvin Lyn and his wife Sylvia were saddened by news in 2006 that the then 81-year-old Hargreaves Memorial Hospital was in deep financial trouble.
Sadness turned to horror when the Lyns heard of one proposal for the hospital to be demolished and replaced by a shopping centre.
According to Lyn, reports such as that one spurred the decision by he and his wife to acquire Hargreaves Memorial, which had for decades been the only privately owned hospital in south central Jamaica.
Many considered the move an overly bold, even reckless step. However, for the Lyns, it was a matter of the heart.
“Call it sentiment if you like, but apart from the hospital’s value to the community we couldn’t forget that was where our grandchildren went when they had asthma attacks,” said Lyn, who is a former member of Parliament for the People’s National Party (PNP) in Manchester North Eastern. “We had to be driving them (grandchildren) from Coleyville, sometimes at one/three o’clock in the morning to get them to Mandeville for treatment,” he recalled.
By August 1, 2006, the Lyns, better known as leading funeral home operators, had formally acquired Hargreaves which is now registered as Hargreaves Memorial Hospital (2006) Ltd, for approximately $200 million.
In the 10 years since then, Lyn estimates that he and his family have spent close to $1 billion on expanding and upgrading the property to the extent that today Hargreaves Memorial is complemented by a modern medical complex.
At a recent awards ceremony to mark 10 years of Hargreaves Memorial since its acquisition by the Lyns, Director of Operations Maxine Walker outlined some of the advances over the period. Those include the two-storey medical complex accommodating doctors, consultants, an X-ray and ultrasound unit “fully upgraded to digital systems”; an expanded laboratory unit with state-of-the-art equipment; a consultancy wing specialsing in advanced services such as neurosurgery, cardiology, rheumatology; and a new accommodation wing dubbed the Calvin and Sylvia Lyn Vision of Hope with 10 upscale rooms.
Among other developments, a new operating theatre is under construction and is set to be completed next year. Also, the medical complex and pharmacy are to be expanded.
Walker said that Hargreaves Memorial has a staff complement of 80 with over 55 doctors registered to practise.
Three doctors and eight staff members were specially recognised for their service at the awards ceremony. Unsurprisingly though, it was the Lyns who received the lion’s share of tributes.
Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who is member of Parliament for Manchester North East, as well as former Cabinet minister and Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting were united in praise of the Lyns’ entrepreneurial spirit.
Noting that the investment in Hargreaves had been “a challenge, a risk”, Shaw, who lost to Calvin Lyn in Manchester North Eastern in 1989, described the Lyns as “entrepreneurs, real, genuine entrepreneurs”. The finance minister recalled that they were “from humble beginnings”. He told his audience of several decades ago “when Calvin used to have his truck with goods driving around Jamaica, buying and selling … they worked together and they have come together to have not just the funeral home service as a point of excellence but have ventured into the (hospital) project which, by any standard, was a high-risk undertaking…”.
Bunting, who was recently critical of business leadership in Manchester, hailed the example set by the Lyns. “What we are celebrating here today, after 10 years, is just a demonstration of our capacity as Jamaicans to take risks, to put our money where our mouth is,” said Bunting.
He described the health sector as an important element alongside business process outsourcing, and education, in the drive to diversify the economy of Manchester following the decline of the bauxite/alumina industry in 2009.
The Lyns were “supportive” of that wider vision for Manchester, said Bunting.
Wayne Chen, leading businessman and chairman of the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) who was representing Health Minister Christopher Tufton had special memories of Hargreaves troubles in 2006.
Chen recalled that when the financial crisis hit Hargreaves, he was among those who “never thought (it) would survive”. He told of how he guided a team of highly successful health-care investors from India on a visit to the hospitals, hoping they would buy the failing facility. But having looked, the Indians decided the level of investment that would be required was unfeasible, said Chen.
It was against that background that he later learned that the Lyns were taking the plunge.
“What we see here, 10 years later, is a tribute to their acumen, hard work and vision,” said Chen. “They have not just taken it (Hargreaves Memorial) and just survived. They have improved it in a way that I did not think possible a decade ago,” he added.
He hailed “the range of services, the quality of the facilities…” which now make it possible for “many of the elective surgeries right here in Mandeville without going to Kingston or abroad”.
High praise for the Lyns also came from acclaimed consultant neurosurgeon Dr Roger Hunter who has partnered with Hargreaves in sophisticated procedures including spinal surgery and neurosurgery. “With the great managerial and leaderships skills the Lyns have brought, we can see this hospital going from strength to strength,” Hunter said.
And for Stuart Barnes of NCB Mandeville — who handed over a cheque worth just over $900,000 to help equip the soon-to-come operating theatre — “Mandeville and central Jamaica are truly blessed to have a hospital of this quality”.