A decision by Reform Party ministers in the previous government to walk back €280 million in EU recovery funding earmarked for the construction of Tallinn Hospital needs to be reviewed, and the Social Democrats want to direct this money back to the megahospital project, candidate for minister of health and labor Peep Peterson (SDE) told ERR on Friday.
According to Peterson, the Estonian capital needs a new hospital sooner or later anyway, which is why state funding for the project needs to be put back on the agenda.
"The chance to reboot canceled projects will come up when we talk (in the fall) about the state budget strategy, and we have an agreement as well that the Social Democrats will be reviewing the [recovery funding] list and put something on the table," Peterson said. "I know that Tallinn Hospital will be super expensive, but I definitely want to work on it and not consider it canceled."
Once he has met with representatives of Tallinn's hospitals and Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center), precisely what arguments will be used in the new coalition to demand this funding back for the hospital project will be more clear, he added.
Kõlvart has previously stated that both of the municipally owned hospitals in the capital, East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK) and West Tallinn Central Hospital (LTK), are in such bad shape already that they may only be able to serve patients for another seven or eight years.
According to Peterson, it won't be easy to get this EU funding directed back to the Tallinn Hospital project. On top of the €280 from the European Commission's Recovery and Resilience Facility, the City of Tallinn had also sought an additional €100 million from the state budget for the construction of the megahospital as well.
"€100 million sounds like a big number that is very difficult to find right now, so initially I'd try to get back that which was possible from the EU, and I'm working on that," said the incoming minister. "I'm not too optimistic, knowing how many arguments there were regarding the cost of the coalition agreement and to what extent it exceeds initial figures, but maybe it will be doable in the long term."
Hospital funding not brought up in talks
He admitted that Tallinn Hospital was not explicitly discussed during coalition talks between Reform, Isamaa and SDE, as arguments between the three parties were heated enough as it was.
"These topics were avoided in order to reach an agreement," Peterson said. "But that doesn't mean that things will stay as they are. We're developing our positions. I'm aware that there are several smaller hospitals as well that would like to apply for these funds, and several objects have gotten more expensive."
Citing a risky schedule and shortcomings in the preparation of the project, the Reform Party's minority government decided in June to withdraw support for the Tallinn Hospital project to the tune of €280 million in funding from the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility.
The decision drew sharp criticism from Kõlvart as well as Tallinn City Council chair Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE), the latter of whom called the decision to pull this funding from the hospital a colossal blunder.
The mayor noted that the government's argument implying that the City of Tallinn hadn't been able to handle the drawing up of the project was not true.
Without the €280 million in EU funding, construction of the new megahospital, planned to be built along Narva maantee in Lasnamäe District, won't be possible, Kõlvart said. Nonetheless, the City of Tallinn will continue to move forward with the €18 million design process, which was already underway, and will be claiming reimbursement from the state of expenses already incurred.
According to this April's estimates, construction of Tallinn Hospital should cost €585 million. In addition to the €280 million from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the City of Tallinn has pledged to support the megahospital project with at least another €140, and expected the state to follow suit.
Editor: Aili Vahtla