PALMA'S new hospital under construction at Son Espases next to the site of the Real monastery earned a visit from the President of the Balearic Islands - Francesc Antich - yesterday, with 85 percent of its total surface area now in place.

Antich was accompanied on the tour by the regional Minister for Health and Consumer Affairs, Vicenç Thomas; and Public Administration director Miquel Nadal. The president said that the predictions for the hospital being complete by about “the middle of 2010” appear to be on schedule.

Antich highlighted the fact that the Son Espases hospital, which will replace Son Dureta as the region's number one medical centre, “will be the best equipped” in the Balearics. The general area of the building including the hospitalisation sector is currently being finalised, but work has already begun on basement sectors where specialised equipment will be housed and on the layout of an incline which will be covered in plants and other vegetation to separate the hospital from the monastery. Antich was keen to point out that the development is going ahead under two conditions imposed by his government at the beginning of his term of office earlier this year - although he had taken the hospital project over from the previous Partido Popular government, he insisted that the hospital be fitted with more equipment and that the environmental impact of its construction be minimised. Antich had in fact secured a left-wing pact prior to the last regional election on the basis that he would not build the hospital near the monastery, considered by environmentalists and Green Party groups as being a threat to the preservation of the historical district. He was later forced to backtrack due to planning and financial pressures - the payment due to the constructors if the project had been abandoned would have run to hundreds of millions of Euros. He has however, moved to put as much distance as possible between the new hospital and the monastery, and incorporated adjacent properties into the “protected” zone so that other residual developments cannot spring up around the hospital. “There will be more than 500 individual rooms,” said the Health Minister. “All the bathrooms will be adapted to people with special needs and we are introducing special measures during the construction period so that archaeological finds which have been registered at the site will be respected.” Currently there are 450 workers on site, a figure which is expected to rise to 1'500 towards the end of the project.


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