The government wants to ditch the controversial Specialty Hospital project, which the previous administration had been pursuing with an Indian line of credit of US$18 million, as it believes the money would be better spent on primary health care, but would first await a report from a consultancy team to be formed.
Speaking at his weekly post-cabinet press briefing, Minister of State Joe Harmon yesterday made this announcement adding that the government would have discussion with officials from the Indian Exim Bank with the view to having the remainder of the US$18 million spent on upgrading regional hospitals.
The past administration, which had entered into the agreement, paid some US$4 million of that sum to contracting firm Surendra which completed some preliminary work at the Turkeyen site but later ran into problems resulting in the PPP/C government terminating that contract.
According to Harmon, at its last meeting, Cabinet looked at the possibility of the spending of the balance of the loan.
To this end, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan has been mandated to continue discussions with the bank with a view “to having a comprehensive report on the status of the project prepared by a consultancy group after which based on the recommendations of this consultancy group… the government of Guyana will decide on the way forward.”
According to Harmon, “the current thinking of the administration is that once those sums of money are available… [it would prefer] the money be spent in other areas that have to do with primary health care… Once we are able to get a status report from a consultancy service…
“We will be guided by the decision of a consultancy team but as I said to you the current thinking of this administration is that the monies that are to be spent on the specialty hospital are better spent on the primary health care system,” Minister Harmon said when asked specifically if the government is shelving the hospital.
He pointed out that many of the regional hospitals are in a poor state as has been discovered by Minister of Public Health Dr George Norton during his visits.
“We believe that the delivery of health care services to the people is much more important at this stage of our development than what we call medical tourism,” he stated.
While in opposition, both APNU and the AFC had questioned the wisdom behind the project and consistently voted against spending for it.
The intended project at Turkeyen, East Coast Demerara ended up being a major embarrassment for the former PPP/C government when it was forced to cancel the contract for the construction which had been controversially won by the Indian company Surendra.
In September last year, the PPP/C government announced that it would move to terminate the controversial contract. In a statement, the government cited a series of problems and a fraudulent document purporting to emanate from the Trinidad central bank.
The government had used Surendra for several major contracts including the Enmore packaging plant and had been accused of favouring it in the Specialty Hospital contract.
The government had persisted nevertheless. The contract with Surendra was also in jeopardy as a rival Indian company had complained to the government in New Delhi about it and the matter was likely to be taken up by the Indian Parliament.
Around US$4 million had already been allocated for civil works and other tasks on the Turkeyen site. The PPP/C government had last year sought to recover this sum from Surendra, to no avail.