Shahba hospital opens after 17 years amid accusations of corruptions
After 17 years of laying the foundation stone, Shahba National Hospital was finally opened in the province of Swaida in southern Syria on 21 October 2019. The hospital was inaugurated at a cost of 1.75 billion Syrian pounds (SYP) and it aims to serve 125,000 citizens, according to the official Syrian news agency (SANA).
Despite the huge costs, citizens and staff at the hospital talked about the poor medical equipment and supplies at the hospital. These testimonies contradict the statements of the regime’s Minister of Health, Dr. Nizar Yazji, for SANA that the hospital provides services at “the highest level in all specialties.”
The hospital is composed of two blocks covering a floor area of 13,700 square meters and a total area of 18,000 sq m. It consists of three floors, a basement with an annex housing for doctors with 60 beds. It houses departments of paediatric surgery, radiology, emergency, general diseases, obstetrics, gastroenterology, dialysis, general surgery, intensive care and a laboratory.
On 28 October 2018, the president of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, issued Decree no. 336 for 2018 on establishing a public health and scientific training institution, named the General Commission of Shahba National Hospital, with legal status and financial and administrative independence, according to SANA.
The opening of the hospital has sparked off ridicule and criticism on social media in the city of Shahba. The residents mocked the hospital as being “no more than an emergency department.”
Salem, a resident of Shahba, told Enab Baladi that he had hoped that the new hospital would help to provide his children with good health care. Nonetheless, he found nothing but a slaughterhouse, according to Salem.
“How can I allow my children to receive treatment in the new hospital with all these talks from the parents about the poor medical equipment? We have been hearing about fatal medical errors suffered by patients at Swaida hospital. I think that the situation here seems to be just as bad,” Salem said.
Salem now goes to private hospitals in the capital of Damascus and pays considerable amount of money to get treatment. The opening of the new hospital does not seem to have altered his skepticism.
Accusations of corruption
Rumors have swirled around in Swaida on suspicions of corruption involving the hospital’s contractors. A lawyer at the hospital’s contracts committee, who spoke to Enab Baladi on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said that the contractor was fined by the engineers committee responsible for completing the project. The source said that the fine was because the equipment at the hospital did not match the agreed terms of contract.
Companies were unable to import some equipment due to Syria’s current situation. They replaced the required medical equipment in the contract with some of poorer quality. The lawyer said that the engineers were forced to complete the certification procedures due to the continuous pressures put by officials and directives made by the “upper echelons.”
Local media outlets, including the state-owned newspaper Tishreen, reported on 20 March that the hospital’s certification committee had deducted 12 million SYP from the amounts owed to the contracting agency. This was due to the poor quality of the metalwork and the tiles, insufficient grouting and cleaning, the improper installation of the Turkish marble, in addition to other irregularities.
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