Marshall Islands hopes for new hospital
A new hospital in Marshall Islands is a step closer to being built.
The Marshall Islands government is hoping its long standing goal of a new hospital in Majuro may be a step closer, with the Minister of Health announcing a concept plan for its construction.
Our correspondent, Giff Johnson told Jenny Meyer the huge cost of the project is controversial with suggestions the money could be better spent on an increased public health focus.
GIFF JOHNSON: The government back eight or ten years ago put out a plan, spent a lot of money coming up with a design that was never finished. So it's been fairly controversial. And then more recently the Minister of Health announced in parliament earlier this month that plans were back on track, the design work was getting going again for the new hospital. And the aim was for a new facility to be built and the estimated cost was US$77million.
JENNY MEYER: That sounds like a lot of money for a population of 50,000 odd people.
GJ: It's a huge amount of money and would be the largest ever single construction project in the Marshall Islands if it went ahead, the largest many fold, many times more than any construction project here. The reason the United States is involved is there's a pot of infrastructure money in the Compact of Free Association which is focussed on infrastructure needs in the Marshalls and that would be the source of funding for a new hospital. At least that's been the discussion up to now. And the US side has for some years encouraged the Marshalls to try to keep the costs down. Largely because of maintenance costs and the bigger the facility the more costly, the higher the ongoing maintenance fees. And the concern that given the lack of maintenance on most government buildings here, that it would really be a problem for sustainability.
JM: So how viable is this project, given the cost and also I guess you know the climate change and the unpredictability of the future of the Marshall Islands?
GJ: The really key issues to get a grip on here are heavily lifestyle type problems, what we call non communicable diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and so on. I mean diabetes is one of the leading causes of illness here which has a huge impact in late stage on hospital expenditures and services. And it needs to be intervened way up front when people are younger to address exercise, diet and things like this. And like there's very little money from national government going into sports facilities and recreational areas and if we could develop more of these areas around the island, it would encourage people to be doing things that would improve their health, that would in the long run mean that hospital services will not be used as much as they're being used now and likely into the future.
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