Health Ministry announces construction of hospitals, 29 months after earthquake

Twenty nine months after a magnitude-8 earthquake devastated Peru’s southern coast, the Ministry of Health announced on Monday the beginning of construction of three hospitals in the Ica department, daily El Comercio reported.

Health Minister Óscar Ugarte said the government rewarded a reconstruction contract for 157 million soles, about $55 million, for Ica’s Regional Hospital. The hospital will have 204 beds and serve 406,000 people.

Two other hospitals – the Santa María del Socorro hospital in Ica and the Juan de Dios hospital in the neighboring of Pisco – will cost 126 million soles, about $44 million. The Santa María del Socorro hospital will have 110 beds and serve 84,000 people, while the Juan de Dios hospital in Pisco will have 102 beds and serve more than 45,000 people.

Ica’s Regional Hospital suffered significant damage from the quake. Health officials evacuated patients to a temporary clinic setup on the hospitals patio after the water tanks collapsed and flooded the building.

Last December, however, Canal N reported the government had made little progress in the reconstruction of the hospital and doctors and nurses were still attending patients in the makeshift hospital. Temperatures in the tents reportedly reached 42 degrees Celsius and medical equipment was disinfected in plastic buckets without adequate safety measures.

“Patients still have to support high temperatures in the tents,” El Comercio quoted unnamed medical officials as saying. “There aren’t enough sanitary facilities and on top of that there is a lack of drinking water and constant fluctuations of electricity, which has damaged some equipment.”

President Alan García’s administration came under sharp criticism for mismanaging the relief and rebuilding programs following the Aug. 15, 2007 temblor, the most destructive and deadly quake to hit the country since 1970.

A year after the earthquake, hundreds of angry residents from Ica, Pisco and Chicha, some of the towns hardest hit by the earthquake, took to the streets carrying pots, pans, whistles and cardboard caskets protesting the governments reconstruction effort.

“After a prolonged delay, that, I recognize, was due to a lack of technical capability in the ministry to quickly prepare the outline and technical files for these hospitals, we have finished the bidding process,” said Ugarte. “Between April and June 2011, we expect the hospitals will be built and completely equipped with the latest medical equipment. These three hospitals will be the most modern in the country.”

The Pan American Health Organization reported that 503 people died, 1,042 people were injured, and more than 33,600 homes affected by the earthquake. Four hospitals were reportedly destroyed.

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