The government awarded Monday a project worth MVR161.8 million (US$10.4 million) to Alia Construction to convert the Equatorial Convention Centre in Addu City to a 100-bed hospital.
At the contract signing ceremony this afternoon, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed said the decision to convert the ECC will ensure the optimal use of land in the southernmost atoll.
“It will be very costly if a hospital such as this is to be developed with a whole new building,” he said.
Alia Construction won the bid in competition with three other companies by proposing the lowest price. The contract was awarded to the local company to design and build the hospital in 18 months.
Muiz said the government has secured financing from both the Saudi Fund and OPEC Fund. An engineering assessment was conducted at their request to determine if the ECC could be converted to a hospital.
The government will also purchase medical equipment and facilities ahead of opening the new hospital in May 2018, he said.
The ECC was built for the SAARC summit hosted in Addu City in November 2011. It was a flagship project of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, which planned to develop ‘conference tourism’ in the Maldives’ second city.
The previous government also invited bids to manage the ECC together with a 100-bed hotel in the marshland area of the Hithadhoo island.
The opposition-dominated Addu city council – which has accused successive governments of allowing the convention centre to fall into disrepair – had opposed plans to convert the ECC.
Developing a tertiary hospital in Addu City is a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.
But in December last year, the government had backtracked on the pledge, promising instead to improve services at the existing Hithadhoo Regional Hospital to cater to Addu City’s 20,000-strong population.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee told the press that the government’s plan was “to build extensions and gradually increase services.”
Shainee’s comments came after Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq criticised the government for cancelling two bids for the new hospital in 2015.
Meanwhile in February this year, Muiz told the parliament that the president decided to convert the ECC to a hospital based on expert advice.
Muiz said today that the ECC was presently unused and a burden for the public, describing the previous government’s decision to build it as “useless expenditure” that was later alleged to involve corruption.
According to the housing ministry, the ECC’s large convention hall will be converted into a two-storey building and the interior will be changed to suit the needs of a hospital.