The government has backtracked on a pledge to build a new hospital in southern Addu City, promising to improve services at the existing Hithadhoo Regional Hospital instead.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee told the press that the government’s focus even in capital Malé is to improve services at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital. “Our thinking is to build extensions and gradually increase services.
“Similarly, we want to introduce services in the Addu hospital and make these services available to the public as soon as possible.”
Shainee’s comments came after Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq criticized the government for cancelling two bids for the new hospital this year. The government has no intention of improving healthcare in the second most populous region of the country, he said.
Addu has a population of 20,000 and is an opposition stringhold.
Building tertiary hospitals in the north and south was among President Abdulla Yameen’s campaign pledges.
In January, the government opened a bid for the project. Of the nine developers, six qualified, but the bid was later cancelled. A new bid was opened in November 19, but cancelled that same week.
Sodiq alleged that the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s refusal to vote for the state budget was linked to the bid cancellation.
Development plans must not be used as a bargaining tool in politics, he continued, and denounced the government for failing to state the reasons for the cancellation.
“We are concerned about the continued delay of the project, especially since the loans had been confirmed for years now,” he said.
Shainee, meanwhile, said the government has not shelved plans for the new hospital.
Soadiq, however, said that he was “extremely disappointed.”
“Since 2005 we have been asking for a hospital. We wanted a new hospital because the one we have is not suited to provide the services we needed.”
Deputy Mayor Abdulla Thoyyib told The Maldives Independent that the Hithadhoo Hospital, which was built in the 1980s, had gotten so many extensions that it had lost its original design concept. He likened the facility to a “dungeon.”
Thoyyib also expressed concern over the stalling of safe water and harbor projects. The council said Addu is being neglected because of its residents’ political affiliations.
The UNDP has urged the government to address regional inequalities in a 2014 report. “Where one is born within the Maldives determines many of the opportunities and choices available to a person,” the UNDP said.
“Remote islands with small populations have limited accessibility to services including schooling, healthcare, social services, job opportunities and face overall isolation.”