Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has caused a stir by opening a mega hospital in Ankara that covers an area as big as 100 football pitches or more.
Brickbats quickly flew from critics who complained that the sheer size of Ankara City Hospital—built at a cost of around a billion euros and boasting some 3,810 beds—will cause logistical problems and complicate efforts in combatting the spread of infections. Where protecting the health of Turkey’s 81mn people is concerned, the Erdogan administration is already in difficulties because the severe devaluation of the Turkish lira has forced up the cost of imported medicines, leading to shortages in pharmacies.
Ankara City Hospital is one of the world’s largest hospitals and the latest manifestation of the populist president’s ostentatious and longstanding commitment to mega infrastructure projects. Voters in Ankara will on March 31 take part in Turkey's local elections. Erdogan's AKP party faces a battle to hold on to control of the capital amid the recession-hit country's economic hardship.
Erdogan responded to the incoming fire over the giant hospital by saying that those opposed to such urban health facilities were against all major projects built by his governments during his 16 years in power. “They come out against bridges, highways, tunnels, airports, high-speed train lines, hospitals and schools, but they are the ones who use them the most,” he remarked in a speech at a ceremony to mark the hospital’s opening, Reuters reported.
$12bn airport, $16bn canal
Istanbul’s new $12bn mega airport, which officials are determined to make the world’s busiest airport, is scheduled to open fully next month, towards four months behind schedule. Turkey is also planning to build a $16bn canal that will turn the western side of Istanbul into an island, even though some experts say it will be of limited use to shipping.
Ankara City Hospital contractor CCN Holding secured a €890mn financing loan for the mega hospital project. The government has signed to pay rent on the hospital for 25 years.
Critics have said the hospital’s size will make it harder to control the spread of infections while distances within the complex will be detrimental to patient service and the work of medical staff.
The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) said it wrote to the health ministry detailing concerns but had not yet received a response.
“Not cost effective”
“It has been proven in research conducted across the world that central hospitals are not cost effective and that they impact public health quite negatively,” TTB head Sinan Adiyaman told Reuters.
Adiyaman added that the size and location of Ankara City Hospital also meant problems were in store for traffic. It is located on one of the capital’s largest and most used roads.
European cities now prefer building several smaller hospitals rather than a single large one and the PPP business model used for the new hospital has largely been abandoned, Adiyaman said, adding that it was impossible for the government to make a short or long-term profit from the new hospitals.
“You need to organise, plan these very carefully, shift things around to find the right way. These aren’t things you do while looking out for some populist, political benefits. Health is a very serious issue,” Adiyaman said.
One employee at the Ankara City Hospital was quoted by the news agency as saying the hospital, located in the Bilkent neighbourhood, was opened to patients last month despite construction still being under way in several parts of the complex.
“We are struggling to get to everything at the moment, so I don’t know how we will manage to do so when it’s functioning at full capacity,” the employee said.