Senior doctor: Reform politicized Tallinn Hospital project from the start

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Ralf Allikvee.
Ralf Allikvee. Source: ERR

The Reform Party politicized a planned Tallinn Hospital from its the outset seven years ago, according to one senior doctor.

The project was officially shelved Thursday after the sitting government, which consists of the Reform Party alone while coalition negotiations continue, with the withdrawal of funding, including that from the EU's recovery fund.

Dr. Ralf Allikvee, former chair of one of Tallinn's existing major hospitals, the East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITKH) said that: "It is a massive pity that our ministers cannot see the bigger picture."

"As stated at yesterday's press conference, that, by the way, they wanted to add one more floor to the hospital – but today we are no longer in peacetime. The question today is whether Estonia can build a hospital in such a way that we would be able to help our people in a given situation. From that point you have to act quickly, talk about deadlines, and it may transpire that you have to start working 24/7," Allivee went on.

"Over the years, the Estonian state could not decide on whether to participate in the Tallinn Hospital project. But this is not only for the residents of Tallinn. Forty percent of the patients would be from other parts of Estonia. This is the problem for the Estonian state. They do not see the big picture and the fact that the Tallinn hospital is very important, including from the point of view of national defense," he went on.

Since 2015, when the decision to start work on the hospital was first made, Reform's attitude had been consistently lukewarm, Allikvee added.

"For them, it immediately transformed into a partisan issue. The hospital is not a partisan issue, it is for everyone. If we are talking about a concrete individual or building, a hospital as a whole is an investment in a person. Investing in the fact that the best people want to be in Estonia and the public would receive treatment whereby they do not need to seek it elsewhere," he continued.

Allikvee's own former employer, ITKH, will be obsolete in the next decade, as there is little scope to install new equipment there, he said.

If another, newer Tallinn hospital, the North Estonian Regional Hospital (PERH) were to serve 850,000, this would leave the remaining 900,000 to be dealt with by the University of Tartu Clinic (TÜK).

That the two hospitals have the capacity between them to serve the needs of the entire populace is a myth, however, Allikvee said, even referring to it as "self-deveptopm."

Meanwhile, the management boards at both hospitals will sleep more easily with the cancellation of the Tallinn Hospital project, he added, noting that they had opposed it from the outset for their own interests – hence the finance minister (Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, deputizing at Thursday's press conference for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who was in Madrid -ed.) utilizing the opinions of professional medical associations as support for scrapping the project.

While the entire budget for building the hospital came to €550-585 million, €280 million was allocated from the EU recovery funds. Once this was removed, the project was moribund, according to Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center).

The reasoning given was that EU recovery funds were lower than the roughly one billion originally forecast, thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance from the Estonian economy, while the additional, underground floor referenced by Dr. Allikvee would have endangered the project meeting the 2026 deadline set by the European Commission, it was argued.

This addition was instigated by the Center Party-led Tallinn city government, who had signed an agreement with the social affairs ministry in respect of the planned project. As such, the project could be seen as a Center Party venture, a party which the prime minister dismissed from office at the national level nearly a month ago.

Tallinn mayor: State must pay for design costs of hospital

Mihhail Kõlvart said on Friday that since there had been a legally-binding contract between the city and the state, the latter must compensate the former for costs incurred at the design phase.

He said: "If the state gave a signal that it will receive funding and the municipality also covers the cost in connection with the same, then that must be compensated, at least in terms of the design budget."

The City of Tallinn signed a €17.8 million design contract with the Italian joint company ATIproject srl and 3TI Progetti for the hospital's design last November, while in May, the request for the extra, subterranean floor to be inserted into the design plans was passed on to the two companies also.

This article was updated to include comments from Mihhail Kõlvart on the design costs.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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