The first fruits of the government’s recent accord with the International Monetary Fund were picked this week in the form of a $70 million loan from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI) to build two new public hospitals in Managua.
The first of the two new hospitals, announced Oct. 25 in a press conference between the CABEI and President Daniel Ortega, will be the Hospital General Occidental Fernando Vélez Páiz, a 250-bed hospital that will be built over the next year across from the Central Bank. The hospital will cost $30 million – $25 million of which is being provided by the CABEI and the other $5 million by the government, according to Silvio Conrado, director of the CABEI.
The construction of the Fernando Vélez Páiz hospital is expected to take 10 months, starting at the end of this year. The hospital is estimated to benefit a population of 615,000.
The second project is to build a new Hospital Alejandro Dávila Bolaños, better known as the Hospital Militar, which will cost $54 million and will be constructed in front of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, on the north side of the capital, about half a kilometer from the current MilitaryHospital.
The new Hospital Militar project is still in the study phase, with the three-year construction period scheduled to start in 2009.
The new Hospital Militar, which will have 300 beds, will be for the military as well as the general public.
“These are the long-term projects, which obviously have to start sometime in order to come into being,” Conrado said. “The government has decided to attend to this sector (health care), and this are the steps that are being taken.”
Ortega said his government, since taking office Jan. 10, has been working to “de-privatize” the health sector by making health-care universal and free of charge. That situation, the president noted, has led to a tripling of the demand for medical attention, further revealing the inadequacies of the current system.
“There are many hospitals in our country, but they are totally deteriorated,” Ortega said. “As we have de-privatized health, the pressure is much greater now. There has been a total change in the relationship between the population and the public hospitals; the pressure is enormous, you can all see this, the people show up because they know they won’t be charged a cent, and they are given medicines and operations.”
Ortega thanked Venezuela, Cuba and medical brigades from the United States, which, “year after year make the effort to come to our country to bring medical attention and equipment that is incorporated into the different hospitals.”
Ortega stressed that unlike recent hospital projects in Nicaragua, this one is not about creating a private hospital that will benefit only those who can afford to go.
“This is a very important step to have new hospitals, which won’t charge in dollars,” Ortega said. “There are private hospitals that charge in dollars. That’s fine, whoever can pay can go, and there are hospitals that have the purpose to serve the population.”