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The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide EUR 150 million to Emmaüs/AZ Sint-Maarten for building the new hospital of AZ Sint-Maarten in Mechelen (Province of Antwerp in Belgium) – a large health campus offering a modern medical environment and the best healthcare services to the patients of the region. This amount provides for almost 50% of the total funding needed. The 30-year-loan was signed on 7 November in Mechelen in the presence of Minister Jo Vandeurzen, Guido Van Oevelen (President of the Board of Directors) and Inge Vervotte, CEO of Emmaüs. The new facility will be operational by the end of 2018.

The new AZ Sint Maarten facility will be constructed on a greenfield site on the outskirts of Mechelen and will replace 3 existing ageing hospitals. It will count 654 beds and 96 daily places for hospital care. Within this new infrastructure, there will also be a modern polyclinic offering specialist medical consultations and outpatient treatment services.

AZ Sint-Maarten hospital’s project went through all the stages of the EIB's thorough appraisal before approval. The new hospital will meet the highest energy standards and as such complies with the energy policy requirements of the EIB, which is pursuing as a priority objective the development of sustainable communities, including those in the health sector, and is offering the best possible support for sound investments. Therefore, the EIB decided to join the project partners and to provide 50% of the financing needed. 

Financing of the hospital

The cost of the new hospital will be EUR 327 million (building, work environment and equipment). Of this amount, EUR 288 million will be financed by the federal and Flemish government. In addition, AZ Sint-Maarten is contributing EUR 39.9 million from its own funds. This financing will be refinanced in the form of commercial bank loans (EUR 177 million) and the EUR 150 million loan from the European Investment Bank. The EIB loan will be for a term of 30 years and will be guaranteed by VIPA[1].

Lower financial burden

The financial crisis has been a source of concern for hospitals. Most of the commercial banks have cut back on lending or even withdrawn from the market due to liquidity and refinancing constraints.
A 30-year-loan as provided by the EIB allows major infrastructure projects such as AZ Sint-Maarten’s new hospital to spread the financial burden over the life-cycle of its building. Jan Ennekens, General Manager of AZ Sint-Maarten, stated: "We are pleased with and grateful for this EIB loan. The EIB is the most solid long-term lender. Offering matching maturities to our project and favourable interest rates, it will give us financial stability and allow us to realise considerable savings. In addition, it allows us to diversify our sources of funding; with the EIB covering nearly 50% of the capital needed, our financing needs will be less of a burden on our Belgian banking partners. Finally, the European resources attracted by this long-term EIB loan indirectly means a sound investment in the regional economy, hence benefiting the citizens”.

Support and benefits for the region

During a short speech, Minister Jo Vandeurzen discussed the importance of attracting European financial resources for the Flemish health and well-being industry. “It is gratifying to see that in its lending the EIB not only attaches importance to the financial health of the institution but also takes account of factors such as innovation and sustainability. In investing VIPA resources the Flemish government also attaches importance to those factors. In the short term it may require more of an effort to invest in innovation and sustainability but this will have a lasting effect on the maintenance costs and quality of the institution.”

EIB Vice-President Pim van Ballekom said at the signing ceremony: “In today’s European countries, health remains a crucial factor and is key to economic growth and development. The medical sector is facing numerous challenges: it has to meet the growing demands and increasing costs and it must develop in a difficult financial environment.  We are glad to offer you the best conditions possible to ease your financing. Mechelen will have a modern facility focusing on offering the best medical care for the years to come. The building will be meeting the highest energy efficiency requirements and this is also a key priority for the European Investment Bank.”

Providing finance for hospital projects is for the EIB part of its remit to support ‘human capital’ and ‘sustainable communities’. The EIB has been financing projects undertaken by UZ Leuven, Maria Middelares hospital in Ghent, the Delta Hospital for CHIREC in Brussels and, more recently, AZ GO hospital in Knokke-Heist.  The contract for the Delta hospital in Roeselare will also be signed by the end of the year. With the ‘Belgian Hospitals Programme’ tailor-made for medium-sized hospital projects, it will amount to EUR 912 million out of a total commitment of EUR 1 375 million for the health sector in Belgium.

[1] Vlaams Infrastructuurfonds voor Persoongebonden Angelegenheden (Flemish Infrastructure Fund for Person-related Matters).