The Junta de Andalucía, responsible for healthcare across the region, has given its backing to proposals for a new public hospital in Malaga.
Regional Health minister Marina Álvarez announced on Monday that the Junta would push ahead with the project after meetings with healthcare experts who have spent the past year assessing the area's needs and considering possible sites for new facilities.
The project which they have settled on is an 800-bed hospital in Malaga, on the land behind the existing maternity and children's hospital, where the La Noria social centre, the nursery school run by the provincial government, the Casa Ronald McDonald centre for family members of sick children and the Virgen de la Esperanza centre for the physically disabled currently stand.
Álvarez described the project, which is expected to cost 230 million euros, as “innovative and good” as it would be at the cutting edge of healthcare provision, with the latest technology and capacities to train new staff and carry out research. She also said that it would be given “top priority” given the current needs of the city and its projected growth.
“This is the hospital that Malaga needs - of a high level, with the latest technology, so that we can go into the future with certain guarantees as we're faced with a growing and ageing population,” said healthcare sources consulted by SUR.
Ready by 2024
Marina Álvarez said on Monday that the hospital could be completed by 2024. It is expected that the contract to draw up the plans for the construction will be put out to tender before the end of the year and that construction could start in 2019, with a timescale of five years.
However, the provincial government (Diputación, headed by the conservative PP party) owns the land where the new hospital will be built and the Health Department (part of the Junta, run by the social PSOE) is yet to negotiate its use.
Meanwhile other improvements would be made the existing health facilities, explained Álvarez, including the opening of a stroke unit and the expansion and improvement of the A&E department at Carlos Haya hospital (works will go out to tender next month), the purchase of five new MRI scanners and improvements to primary care.
Cutting waiting times is also a priority, said Álvarez, who recognised that many healthcare professionals says that the current infrastructure is insufficient.
Sources from the Diputación reported on Monday that they had not yet received an official request from the Junta, but provincial president Elías Bendodo formally responded on Tuesday, saying he would be willing to give up the land, offering his “complete collaboration” in the project. He also went as far as offering a “vote of confidence” to regional Health minister Marina Álvarez.
Bendodo, however, insisted that permission for use of the land would only be given should the Diputación's conditions be met. He called for an “urgent” action plan to be implemented as soon as possible to attend to Malaga's current healthcare shortfalls; the construction of a CHARE “high-resolution” hospital on the eastern side of the city in the El Palo district; and that the current services on the planned site are relocated elsewhere in the province and not scrapped.
The provincial chief said that these conditions were “not unreasonable”. “We're not asking for anything that is out of this world,” he said, and insisted that the stance over the CHARE would not alter.
He said that they could not accept “a small change to the health centre in El Palo”, with reference to Álvarez's proposal the previous day. She insisted that a CHARE was not necessary but that improvements could be made to the existing building, by adding emergency and specialist departments and facilities to carry out diagnostic tests.
Bendodo insisted that rejection of this was not a matter of politics: “It's not the PP or the Diputación saying this, health professionals and the College of Physicians all say that it is crucial to have another centre in this area.”