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The World Bank funds private Hospital in India

The World Bank, whose website (www.worldbank.org) declares "Our dream is a world free of poverty, 'is backing the construction of private hospital in Mumbai, India, a move which some health agencies fear sets a precedent for using development assistance for projects that will mainly benefit the rich.

The bank has given the government of Maharashtra state an International Development Association loan of $134m (89m), of which 5% will be used to build the private multi-specialty hospital. The hospital will be run by Wockhardt, India's fifth largest pharmaceutical company, which will own 51% of the equity.

Local health campaigners in India are outraged that the bank is funding a private hospital rather than basic primary healthcare services for poorer patients. The save Public health Care Campaign, a coalition of Indian non-government organizations, trade, unions, and activists, said: "Under the instructions of the International Monetary Fund and World bank, the government has been steadily withdrawing even its minimal commitments to the poor."

International development agencies are also concerned at the bank's involvement in this private venture. Mike Rowson, director of Medical Action for Global Security, said: "The bank is supposed to be focusing on the poor, and it should be supporting government run health services, not a private hospital".

Both the bank and Maharashtra state Government claim that the new hospital will cater not just for rich India's health system, and the poor people who can't get services will be helped". Tawhid Nawaz, task manager at the World Bank, told the BMJ: "The State Government could not have managed this hospital on its own. The bank is allowed to finance innovative thinkgs like this". But some international health researchers are suspicious of the Bank's promises that this private-public venture will improve India's health.

Kasturi Sen, a researcher in Cambridge University's department of p ublic health, said: "This project is ill considered. It is intended for profiteering and has nothing to do with health. The hospital will cater for a super rich transnational population who will come to Indian for treatment instead of Europe."

Source : BMJ, Vol.17 No. 3, Gavin Yamey
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