San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gov’t Pleads With Italians To Continue Hospital Project

After an Italian non-governmental organization recently threatened to suspend a hospital project it planned to build in the northern city of León in protest over the government’s insistence on micromanaging the project, the administration of President Daniel Ortega did an about-face last week and asked the NGO to stay and promised to give them full authority over the construction and management of the $5 million hospital.

Health Minister Guillermo González said the ministry will allow the Italian group to develop the project “however it planned.”

The proposed hospital would include a 40-bed maternity ward and children’s hospital, creating 250 jobs.

“We’re willing to keep each and all of the project’s characteristics,” González said in a Feb. 13 letter to the Italian NGO group called Emergency.

Teresa Sarti, president of Emergency, had written the Ortega government a letter in January saying the group had decided to cancel the project due to the government’s failure to meet the group’s demand for full autonomy over its management.

The Italian group first signed an agreement with the Nicaraguan government for the project in 2006. The hospital project planned a multi-million-dollar investment to staff and equip the hospital.

But then the Health Ministry sent Emergency new guidelines for the hospital’s construction and management last year, which included “impositions” on the Italian group given in an authoritarian manner and “with specific and detailed demands, as if the Italians were simply the project’s executor,” Sarti said.

At press time, Sarti hadn’t yet announced whether it will accept the Nicaraguan government’s new offer.

The Health Ministry’s handling of the hospital snafu stands in stark contrast to the government’s handling of a separate incident last month when a U.S. medical mission announced it would not return to Nicaragua because of “interference” from Sandinista party officials (NT, Feb. 13).

After the medical mission’s pullout was made public earlier this month, the Ortega government denied the group’s accounts and said it “condemns any action attempting to stain the good name” of the Sandinista administration.

–Nica Times and EFE


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