Specialty Hospital Project still on agenda – Indian diplomat
– will make Guyana a hub for medical tourism
With the former Administration, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), scrapping the Specialty Hospital Project back in 2017, the Indian High Commissioner has indicated that the idea of Guyana getting such a facility is still in the cards.
“So, the idea of a specialty hospital is still there so we are to see whether it will be a line of credit or a private participation. So, these are the thing which we are working with the Ministry of Health at this time,” High Commissioner Dr KJ Srinivasa stated on Friday.
The US$18 million project, which was being funded by the India Export/Import (EXIM) Bank via a line of credit (LOC), was dropped in 2016 after the contracted company, Fedders Lloyd Corporation Limited – which was handpicked by the coalition Administration – was blacklisted by the World Bank until 2020 over fraud and corrupt practices.
The Guyanese Government subsequently announced that the project was “dead” in May of 2017 by then Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.
The Indian diplomat said that the line of credit was initially for the construction of the specialty hospital but after the APNU/AFC scrapped the project, the funds were diverted to upgrading three regional facilities in Regions Two, Three and Seven.
“We were ready with that and when the new Government came in, they also agreed with that proposal and they said let’s not go back to the drawing board let’s finish with this and if we still need a specialty hospital we will start working on the proposal. We want to finish these three hospitals. Parallelly, we are also working on various possibilities for the specialty hospital,” he related.
The special hospital project started under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic Administration (PPP/C) and back in 2012, the contract was awarded to India-based company, Surendra Engineering Corporation Limited. However, citing instances of alleged fraud and delays, the Donald Ramotar Administration in 2014 announced that it had terminated the contract with the India-based company and subsequently filed a lawsuit against it for failing to honour its obligations.
While in the Opposition, both the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC), before they collated, were against the project and upon their assumption to office in 2015 following their victory at the General and Regional Elections, they decided to scrap the project, which had already expended some US$4 million on preliminary works.
The coalition Government then approached India to divert the remaining $13.8 million towards improving the country’s primary healthcare service by upgrading three public hospitals across the country.
Hub for medical tourism
The PPP/C regime, at the time of conception, was hoping that the specialty hospital would be a catalyst in creating “health tourism” here in Guyana by pulling foreigners and overseas-based Guyanese to Guyana.
The Indian diplomat told Guyana Times that such a facility is needed in Guyana because it not only provides specialised care to patients but also increases the possibility of the country becoming a hub for medical tourism.
“I think if Guyana gets that specialty hospital it will be an attractive hub for medical tourism. In fact, India has – people will deem it a bit humourous – we have a visa called medical tourism visa…it’s a medical tourism visa where people actually go to India for elective surgeries, treatments, consultations and do tourism also and then come back that’s why it is called medical tourism and people actually, you know, they go in droves from many countries across the world,” Dr Srinivasa said.
In a previous interview with Guyana Times, Dr Srinivasa’s predecessor, Venkatachalam Mahalingam, had expressed disappointment in the scrapping of the transformative project.
This is especially with the upcoming economic development the country is about to experience as a result of the oil boom. Mahalingam, who ended his five-year tour in Guyana last year, had stressed the need for such a facility in Guyana.
Citing the lack of specialty healthcare in Guyana, now Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony at an election rally in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), promised to restart the Specialty Hospital Project when the party returns to power.
“We will return to one of the PPP/C’s flagship programmes and that is we are going to build a specialty hospital,” Dr Anthony had declared to thousands of supporters.
Just last month he revealed that there is significant local and foreign interest from the Private Sector in constructing specialty hospitals in Guyana.
“In terms of specialty hospital, apart from maybe Government investing, there has also been a lot of interest from the Private Sector, locally and foreign, to invest in developing specialised services. So, we are very favourable to such investments. And we’re hoping that we can start working with those Private Sector companies to start realising them. And if there are others who want to come in, we’ll be happy to review and offer advice and see how we can enable them to invest,” Dr Anthony had said.