Thu 15 May 2014
Filed under: Aid,Health,News
Despite pledges of support from abroad, a much-publicised plan to renovate Yangon General Hospital is still completely reliant on government financing, fundraisers say.
The project has the firm backing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has even raised it in her meetings with international leaders. But Dr Tin Myo Win, a National League for Democracy (NLD) member who is also on the hospital renovation fundraising committee, said no foreign cash has been provided to move the project forward.
“Three international donors promised to help fund the renovation of Yangon General Hospital but the money hasn’t come yet. So far they’ve provided only technical advice on the renovation process,” he said last week.
“Because we are reliant on the government budget for funding the process is going slowly … [but] we intend to use government funding to raise both the buildings and human resources to international standards.”
Dr Tin Myo Win said talks are continuing with the British government, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and other potential donors.
During a visit to the United Kingdom in October 2013, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the renovation plan with Prime Minister David Cameron and International Development Secretary Justine Greening.
Mr Cameron said he supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s plan for the hospital and the British government said in a statement it would fund a team to assess plans for the renovation of the 1500-bed hospital.
The NLD has taken an active role in raising donations for the hospital redevelopment, helping to attract pledges totalling at least K400 million (US$417,000) to date.
The government has allocated K4.5 billion in 2014-15 for the renovation, following on from the K5 billion allocated in 2013-14.
Last year’s funding was spent on nine aspects of the upgrade, seven of which are already completed. A new five-storey building with 300 beds and facilities for a cancer screening department are still under construction, said Dr Pa Pa, deputy medical superintendant at Yangon General Hospital.
This year’s funding will be used to renovate sections of the original building and build a three-storey out-patientdepartment.
She said no estimate for the cost of the complete upgrade of Yangon General Hospital has been calculated. “The government policy is to submit a work plan year by year, which means we can’t say when the project will be completed either.”
In October, the five-storey building is scheduled for completion. Patients will be transferred there from the old wards, which will then be renovated in sections.
Dr Hla Myint, medical superintendant at Yangon General Hospital, said the five-storey building would initially comprise an operating theatre on the top floor and temporary wards on the lower floors.
Once renovations on the main building are complete, the ground floor will become an X-ray department, the first floor the Department of Rheumatology and Department of Medicine, the second floor private rooms and the third floor a 50-bed intensive care unit.
Some patients have already been transferred from the old wing of the hospital. Last year the ministry completed a new building on Pyay Road with 500 beds and a number of wards began shifting there in October 2013.
The orthopaedic ward, gastroenterology medical unit and surgery wards, liver medical unit and surgery wards, chest medical unit and surgery wards – altogether nine wards – have all moved to the Pyay Road site.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been a staunch supporter of the plan to upgrade Yangon General, arguing that “reinvigorating and renovating” the hospital is the first step toward improving health care and quality of life for all, according to the website of the recently established Suu Foundation.
“Once a source of pride for the country and the region, conditions at Yangon Hospital have vastly deteriorated,” it said.
“The Suu Foundation seeks investment to rebuild the hospital into a thriving institution where the best Burmese physicians want to practice.”
Local health experts applauded the upgrades to Yangon General Hospital but were mixed on whether the money could be better spent.
Daw Nwe Zin Win, chair of the National NGO network (HIV/AIDS), said the project would bring significant benefits for the community and needs more international support.
“Foreign donors should help because many people depend on Yangon General Hospital for treatment and currently it does not have enough space,” she said. “Services also need to be improved and I think the hospital can become a good example for our country if it is improved.”
But Dr Than Tun Sein, a former director at the Department of Medical Research (Lower Myanmar) who now works on community health development, said it would be better to spend the money on rural health and other health areas.
“People who live in rural areas cannot afford to come to Yangon General Hospital,” he said. “So updating the hospital will benefit medical students and Yangon residents, especially the middle-class … but not for poor people.”