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Medical staff at Rangoon General Hospital are protesting a government decision to rent out a portion of its land to a company for the construction of a private hospital.
Burma’s Ministry of Health recently signed a 50-year extendable lease on a 4.3-acre plot of land at the corner of Bogyoke Aung San Road and Pyay Road to two Burmese corporations for the development of the private hospital. The new facility is to be owned and constructed in a joint venture with two Singapore-based firms, the larger being Parkway Healthcare Indo-China Pte.Ltd.
The 250-bed hospital, to be called Parkway Yangon, is due to open in 2020 after a ground breaking ceremony was held late last month. Construction costs are estimated at US$70 million.
According to a press statement released by IHH Healthcare Berhad, Parkway Healthcare’s parent company, the project will be developed and operated by a consortium called Andaman Alliance Healthcare Limited. The consortium is comprised of Singaporean firms Parkway Healthcare with a 52 percent stake and Macondray Holdings Pte. Ltd. with 10.5 percent. Burmese corporations AMMK Medicare Company Limited and Global Star Company Limited will hold 21.5 percent and 16 percent shares respectively.
The new hospital will take over a plot opposite the University of Nursing that had previously been marked for the expansion of Rangoon General Hospital. The Ministry of Healths about-face has stoked the ire of the Myanmar Doctors Association.
Association member Dr San Kyaw Oo this week penned an open letter to parliament, undersigned by doctors and other medical personnel, in which he asked lawmakers to wade in on the issue.
“The plot was previously set for the expansion of Rangoon General Hospital, to build a modern learning facility for medical studies. There are plenty of spaces elsewhere for private hospitals and we are complaining because they are renting this particular plot that was to be used for a public hospital, for the public,” said Dr San Kyaw Oo.
IHH Healthcare Berhad said in its statement, dated 24 January 2016, that “the new hospital will be a boost to ongoing efforts in uplifting [Burmese] medical services to world-class standards. This will provide an alternative for the many citizens who currently travel out of the country each year for healthcare.”
However Nyo Nyo Thin, a former MP in the Rangoon divisional parliament said going ahead with the project without prior approval from the legislature would be a breach of the Burma’s constitution.
“I see that there was no proposal to or approval from Rangoon Division’s parliament. It is a breach of the constitution to go ahead with these projects without approval from the parliament as the constitution’s Article-251 clearly states. [Naypyidaw] must seek approval from the regional parliament to implement projects that are to be undertaken in the region. So the government slipping a project like that in the time gap between the last parliament and the new parliament is something the current MPs should be raising questions about.”
Doctors who led the ‘Black Ribbon‘ campaign in protest of the appointment of military officials to the Health Ministry last year are also speaking out against the construction. Dr Alinka, who led last year’s popular social media movement, said the group is now collecting signatures from doctors and medical staff across Burma on a petition against the project which will be sent to parliament, the election-winning National League for Democracy and the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Commission.