Opinion – Medical attention

According to the most recent news, the Islands Health Complex may start operating in late 2023, at best. The construction, if all goes according to plan (currently), will finish by mid-2022. Then several months will be required to equip and set up operations.

Assuming all goes for the best, it will not be too soon. The future public hospital, at the southern tip of Cotai, was planned ten years ago. The outgoing secretary for the sector, when taking over his job, promised it would be ready by the end of the mandate. Current news suggests we will be lucky if it is by the end of the next. It was a promise the government could not keep.

Shortly after that promise was made, other members of the administration at the top level ‘added water to the boiling,’ to use a Portuguese expression. That is, they made a point of lowering the ‘temperature’ of the promise.

Since then, whenever the issue re-surfaced, there was the neat impression that the services involved, more or less explicitly, blamed each other for any delays and mishaps. And, as it is the case too often, even at this late phase in the process, the final estimated cost is still undetermined.

Only one building, among seven planned, is concluded. But it is not to provide medical care; it is the one for nurses training. It is indeed good that its construction was accomplished, even if there is no news yet concerning the start of operations.

It is also clear it would have much to benefit from the existence of a running hospital nearby. The training of nurses would certainly profit enormously from it. But that also hinges on the completion of the remainder of the complex and the start of services.

The complaints or misgivings about the share of responsibilities among the various services involved are not over. They are back in the news and bring forth unresolved issues of coordination and communication between various public services.

Indeed, experience suggests corrections are desirable, it nor essential, to improve and render more efficient the planning and execution of public investments, big and small. But the issue is likely to go beyond the individual cases.

When the public investment is involved, whatever the internal specific arrangements, sliding schedules and budgets seem to be just the norm – by several years and millions.