Spanish version

HEALTH

Cost of City Hospital project spirals out of control

The project's cost has doubled for more than $1 billion, and could still go up significantly.

 

Spanish version

Temas:

Social Security will have to spend $500 million to finish and equip the City Hospital project, pushing the total cost to twice the projected amount.

There are also doubts that the agency has the ability to operate the massive facility, located in Ancón.

Minister of Health Francisco Javier Terrientes explained that the initial cost of the project was $517 million, but this did not include the cost of most of the medical equipment for the facility. The additional $500 million includes $300 million to purchase the equipment and $200 million for operating expenses.

The ministry is meeting with Social Security officials to determine whether the work meets with the current needs of the agency or if it needs to be modified.

In this sense, Terrientes said that one of the aspects that will be analyzed is the ability of Social Security to handle the administration of this "big monster."

He said it is possible that both institutions will assume the management of the hospital since it is too large for Social Security to handle on its own.

Officials are also studying plans to possibly sell or rent portions of the project to make it more manageable.

Other problems are also being looked at due to the location of the project. The minister said that there are concerns about the nearby Mercado de Abastos, which could lead to problems with bacteria, pests and other health issues. There is also a shortage of drinking water, electricity and access roads to the facility.

Gerónimo Espitia, a member of the urban planning commission of the Panamanian Society of Engineers and Architects (SPIA), said addressing these issues could push the cost of the project to $1.5 billion. He explained that the problem with the building is that it was developed from a business standpoint, and did not take the needs of the population into account.

National Medical Negotiating Commission (Comenenal) Coordinator Domingo Moreno said that officials will have to be "very creative" in managing the facility. He said that the work was not conceived to respond to the community, but as a way to sell concessions to companies. Within the Comenenal there are divided opinions about the project. On one side, there are those who argue that the project should be frozen and sold to a third party. Another faction thinks it should be finished or else it will be a huge waste of money.

Social Security Director Estivenson Giron acknowledged the problems, but said that the agency will try to make the project viable to benefit policyholders.

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