YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The World Bank has approved a new $19 million loan for Armenia that will be used for upgrading more hospitals and smaller medical centers outside Yerevan.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the bank said the low-interest loan will finance the second phase of an Armenian government program to modernize underfunded and obsolete healthcare facilities across the country. The government will contribute $6.3 million of its own resources to the effort, it said.
The statement specified that the funding will be mainly spent on building a new hospital in Gyumri and providing modern equipment to hospitals in a dozen other Armenian towns. The money will also be used for improving physical conditions of 14 rural ambulatories and retraining their personnel, it said.
World Bank officials said the release of the fresh loan repayable in 25 years was made possible by the success of the first phase of the healthcare project launched three years ago. The bank lent Armenia $22 million for that purpose in late 2007. The sum is due to be utilized in full by the end 2012.
The Armenian government has already refurbished five regional hospitals with World Bank funding over the past year. One of them, located in the southeastern town of Goris, was inaugurated by President Serzh Sarkisian and Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian on Wednesday. The government put the total cost of the facility’s modernization at about $3 million.
According to the World Bank statement, more than 150 rural health centers have also received new medical equipment, furniture and other necessary items as part of the scheme. “Under the World Bank project, 1200 family doctors and more than 1300 family nurses have been trained,” it said.
“The process of modernization of hospitals in the regions has already resulted in a consolidation of services, improvement in efficiency and reduction of costs, better access to quality health care in five regions of Armenia,” Asad Alam, the World Bank director for the South Caucasus, was quoted as saying.
The latest loan underlined the bank’s status as Armenia’s leading external lender and, in particular, the main source of funding for badly needed infrastructure projects. It raised to more than $1.4 billion the total amount of loans disbursed to the country by the Washington-based multilateral institution since 1993.