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Atoll healthcare a government priority, says minister

Minister Abdulla Nazim said healthcare spending had increased 130 percent since President Abdulla Yameen came to power.



Developing health services in atolls is a government priority, the health minister said Saturday, despite one of the country’s most expensive hospital projects being based in the capital.

Abdulla Nazim said healthcare spending had increased 130 percent since President Abdulla Yameen came to power, with the aim of expanding coverage.

But a 25-storey hospital tower in Malé costing US$140 million has drawn criticism because of its price tag, while progress on tertiary hospitals in the south and north of the Maldives has stalled.

“Internal medicine, gynaecology, surgery, kidney, dentistry, ophthalmology services are being developed in atolls,” said Nazim in a speech marking World Health Day.  “Ensuring this is one of the highest priorities for the government.”

Nazim said a 100-bed tertiary hospital would open in Addu this year. Developing tertiary hospitals in the north and south of the Maldives is a presidential pledge by Yameen.

AdduLive, a community news website in the southern island, pointed out conflicting deadlines given by state officials for the hospital’s completion date. Nazim previously said the hospital would be ready by May but Housing Minister Dr Mohamed  Muizzu said it would be July, the website reported.

An unnamed government official, speaking to AdduLive, questioned whether the hospital would be fully functional even if the building were finished by July.

Another tertiary hospital, in the northern island of Kulhudhuffushi, has also raised concerns after disputes between local and Indian investors. The developers missed a six-month development timeline and have been embroiled in controversy.

Nazim made no reference to the future of Kulhudhuffushi Hospital in his speech, but instead quoted statistics to highlight the success of Yameen’s healthcare policy.

“Compared to 2013, there are 413 more doctors providing healthcare services now. 681 more nurses are providing services. 382 beds have been added. Thank Almighty Allah.

“More than 96 percent of babies are born in healthcare facilities in the presence of a healthcare professional, 99 percent  of children are vaccinated.”

Treatment for cancer, kidney and heart conditions being available in the Maldives was proof the administration wanted healthcare to be easily accessible, he added.

“190 doctors have been sent abroad for training, That is 52 for specialty training and 138 for MBBS training,” he said.

The Maldives Independent contacted the ministry about the hundreds of healthcare professionals hired, such as where they were from and where they worked, but no information was available at the time of going to press.