Nis Clinical Centre stalled for a half century, until EIB financing helped build Serbia’s most modern clinical centre.
When Srbijanka Stojanović started working at a nurse in Serbia’s third-largest city, there were big plans for a new, state-of-the-art hospital in Niš. Construction started in 1970, but after many delays, the project was abandoned for about 30 years.
But this April, Stojanović, who’s now retired, was one of the first patients admitted to the most modern hospital in Serbia, the new Clinical Centre Niš, which opened in December 2017. “I came to the emergency room, where a doctor received me” she says. “They’ve taken such good care of me.”
A very long engagement
Construction on the new hospital started in 2013 under a EUR 430 million investment programme to improve clinical centres around the country. The European Investment Bank made a EUR 200 million loan for the programme. The aim is to improve healthcare across the country and make it more accessible to the majority of the population. Besides Niš, the project also comprises the design, construction, renovation and equipment of clinical centres in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Kragujevac.
The new Niš hospital covers some 45,000 square metres, has 17 operating rooms and over 600 beds. It was developed as a smart building with a control room that can be self-sustainable in case of an emergency. The EIB financed the construction and rehabilitation of the hospital with a EUR 33 million loan, while the Serbian government contributed EUR 16 million to help purchase medical equipment.
“I’m reaping the benefits of this new equipment, which is invaluable,” says Dr. Goran Stanojević, a surgeon at the hospital. “For the past few months, we’ve been working in state-of-the-artconditions and one can see improvement in terms of treatment of the gravest conditions, resulting in our patients getting well – which is the most important thing”.
Investing in the health of 2.5 million people
Niš is 200 kilometres south of Belgrade and has a population of almost 200,000. The new clinical centre will serve the city, as well as about 2.5 million people in southeastern Serbia.
Before the centre opened, patients were often referred to the Belgrade hospital, because the Niš hospital didn’t have suitable equipment. “But thanks to the modern equipment we received, waiting lists have shrunk substantially,” says Dr. Milan Simić, a radiologist at the centre. “So we, the people of Niš, won’t have to go to Belgrade anymore. Perhaps, the people from Belgrade will be coming to us.”
New opportunities for Serbia’s health professionals
The new clinical centres will not only help the patients. “We want to modernize working environment to encourage young doctors and nurses to stay and practice in their country,” says Anna Solecki, the EIB’s senior loan officer working on the project. That’s especially important, because the new centre houses the University of Niš Faculty Of Medicine. “We want to provide them with opportunities to practice with modern equipment,” says Solecki, “but the main goal is to bring Serbia’s healthcare system up to best European standards.”
“These are the best working conditions in my professional lifetime. It means a great deal to me as a radiologist that I can work on state-of-the-art machines that I always dreamed of using,” Simić, the radiologist, says.
The project is also aligned with the EIB’s Economic Resilience Initiative, which promotes an improved and equitable delivery of basic services, and supports social protection for residents of the Western Balkans.
Stojanović is especially happy about the post-operational comfort the new hospital provides. “A double bedroom and a private bathroom mean a lot to a patient. The accommodation is like a hotel,” she says. “This centre means a lot for Niš, it really means a lot”.
In a field that’s usually high-tech and innovative, 2020 saw health authorities across Europe scramble to finance basic medical supplies, while others looked for simple solutions for COVID-19 infection spikes