The 2023 Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP) plan for the health sector was an extremely intriguing one as the Government announced plans to spend over MVR 318 million through loan financing on improving the sector not only in the capital city but also in other inhabited islands.
According to the published PSIP report plan for 2023, the Government had plans to improve the existing hospitals while also developing new hospitals in various islands of the Maldives. On a larger scale, the plan included plans to develop tertiary-level hospitals in both Kulhudhuffushi City and G.Dh Thinadhoo. Moreover, the plans also involved improving the overall services provided in L.Gan, G.Dh Thinadhoo as well as R. Ungoofaaru to tertiary level hospitals.
Though these might seem like small-scale plans to an outsider looking in, for anyone residing in the Maldives these are some major steps towards the development of the overall health sector of the nation. This was especially a major announcement to the residents of the said islands and Atolls, as migrating in order to get better healthcare has become a major issue in the Maldives not only due to the overpopulation it has caused in the capital city but the cost that patients have to bear in order to get the most basic health care treatments done. When it comes to some islands, people have no choice but to travel to the capital city in order to get a specialist consultation as advanced medical healthcare is still not prevalent in major parts of the Maldives.
With this lack of development in the health sector, many were looking forward to the developments, however, with the recent news people are starting to doubt how achievable these PSIP goals are even for 2023 if plans made in 2022 are coming to a halt.
Are these goals really achievable?
On 13th April 2023, the Ministry of Health of the Maldives announced the agreement that was made to design and build hospitals in HA. Atoll Dhidhoo, Raa Atoll Alifushi, Dhaalu Atoll Kudahuvadho and GA. Villingili have been terminated due to a lack of funding for the project within the given timeline.
This is a major step backwards in the development of the health sector as this is not just one project but contracts to build four different hospitals in four islands that are coming to termination with this decision. The initial contract was signed on 30th May 2022 between the Government of the Maldives and an Indian company Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL).
This information was revealed after the Government handed over the same project to a Chinese company almost a year into signing with TCIL, leading to local news outlets questioning the Government under the Right to Information Act. This line of questioning led to the Government having to state that the project to build the four hospitals, which was being carried out under a line of credit by Indian Exim Bank for a cost of USD 57 million. When the project was initially signed, a clause was involved that stated that if the funding for the project are not raised within 90 days, the project would become void, which is what happened in the case leading to the project agreement between the Maldivian Government and TCIL getting terminated.
With these complications coming into play, and TCIL never receiving the funds for the project, on May 2, 2022, the Maldivian Government signed an agreement to develop the same four hospitals with the Chinese International Development Cooperation Agency. While the construction of this project has still not been handed over to any contractors.
For islanders, the development of the health sector within their respective islands has become one of the most important things as this has been a major factor in people migrating to the capital City. While the health sector has seen some reform within islands over the past years, people are still waiting for some major developments, such as a tertiary level hospital being constructed in Atolls, facilitating better healthcare for nearby islands as well.
With this, while the PSIP goal for the health sector is extremely impressive on paper, people are starting to doubt whether any of these hospitals are actually going to get developed in the respective islands or if the projects are going to have the same outcome leading to major delays as the projects contracted with the TCIL company.