THE NEW TESTAMENT message “Suffer little children to come unto me” is alive and well at Panama’s children’s hospital (Hospital del Nino), but the message doesn't appear to resonate with the Ministry of Health (Minsa) as it shuffles from delay to delay in replacing the ageing and ailing structure.
The overcrowded facility treats some 250 emergency patients every day a figure that jumped by up to a 100 with the September closure of the Hospital San Miguel Arcángel.
Talk of a new home has been around since Ricardo Martinelli’s castle in the air project - a 70-story Ministry of Finance tower on the site of the former US Embassy - was abandoned and it was announced that dollar manipulators would be replaced with medical staff and sick kids in a shiny new, hospital. A figure of $62 billion was bandied around. Over five years later, with Martinelli long gone the site on Avenida Balboa serves as a parking lot and the Varela administration, not famed for speedy action is still shuffling and while it manages to find multi-millions to devote to Church structures, it falls short in practical Christianity like the needs of those “little children.”. A study by the Technological University of Panama (UTP) and the Fire Department of Panama warns that current facilities “must be replaced.”
The stage of preparation of studies and plans for the hospital should have ended in March of this year but, after an addendum and setbacks, it still sits in the pending basket. And the tender for construction remains stagnant.
Iveth Olmos, Director of Infrastructure at Minsa, said that this is a project that takes time, and the phase of studies and plans will culminate in December.
The design contract was awarded in December 2015, but it was not until six months later, in June 2016, that the order to proceed was delivered. If the overworked staff at the hospital worked at the same pace those 250 daily emergency patients would be the sufferers.