The end of another public hospital

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By RAUL PONT*

Services are abandoned, spaces and public goods deteriorate and then privatization is justified

On April 27, in an auction sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, the Union Heritage Sector (SPU) sold to the real estate developer and construction company Melnick, the land and built area of ​​the former Ulbra Hospital, as the house was known on Rua Álvaro Alvim in Bairro Rio Branco in Porto Alegre, for the amount of 17,5 million reais.

The Hospital was handed over to the Union at the beginning of the century in payment of tax and social security debts and, in 2010, it began to house services of the Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre in the area of ​​patients with chemical dependency and alcoholism. For this purpose, Clínicas (public budget) invested around 10 million reais in renovations and adaptations.

After a decade, in 2020, the building was returned to the Union Heritage and the services transferred to the new HCPA facilities on Av. Protasio Alves.

Despite the health crisis with the pandemic and the lack of hospitals and outpatient clinics, neither the federal government, nor the State, nor the municipality have shown the will and commitment to reactivate the hospital for the necessary and required spaces for health care. Neither in the crisis, nor now when the State and Municipal Health Councils are claiming their own spaces for the after-effects of Covid or for attending to the huge queues dammed up by the lack of specialized polyclinics in the capital and in the State.

In the recent public hearings held at the City Council and with the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office to seek ways to abandon the Hospital, representatives of these Councils registered these needs and urgent demands from the Rio Grande do Sul community.

Abandoned, the Álvaro Alvim Street Hospital began to live the drama of public property in the privatist and liquidationist vision of public services that the country suffers under neoliberal governments.

Services are abandoned, spaces and public goods deteriorate and then it is justified to privatize them at any price in big business for speculators.

The case of the Hospital is no exception to the rule. In recent months, the building has been invaded and plundered on a daily basis with the theft of wiring, frames, doors and pieces of equipment that could be sold as scrap. All with the complacency of the company paid to protect the building and the neglect and lack of inspection of the Union's Heritage. Even so, the building has more than 10 thousand meters of constructed area and a year ago there was a hospital.

At the current CUB value, 10 meters of built area cost around 22 million reais and the land of the property, with more than 9,6 square meters, in the Rio Branco neighborhood, where the square meter is around 6 thousand reais, would be worth more than 50 million.

So, what is the criterion, what is the calculation basis of a public body that spoke of 31 million reais in the initial projections for the sale, which in March 2022 held an auction that turned out to be empty, with a basic value of 23 million and now delivers the same public equity for 17,5 million?

In market values, I repeat, the land is worth 50 million and the built area around 22 million. The legality of the sale pointed out by the press (ZH 28/04/22) is that Law No. 14011 allows, via auction, to reduce the basic value by 25% if the previous auction is empty. But what is the basis of calculation? The market value? The value for the purpose of paying City Hall IPTU? The value in the Real Estate Registry? The expert judgment of a reputable public body?

Now, in the center of the Rio Branco neighborhood, where there is a real speculative fever, everything indicates that the land sold will be for this purpose and the 10 meters of built-up area, a public hospital that should be providing urgent services required by the community will be demolished. The neighborhood, like neighboring Bela Vista, which has already densified the maximum allowed by the Master Plan, also suffers this limit densification and speculation knows that it has governments that are always at the service of capital to make exceptions through the so-called special projects.

There remains hope that the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office will question this magic of selling land and built area worth approximately 70 million, in the market so incensed by current governments, for 17,5 million, in an auction with a single buyer and in a city where there are no more than two or three competitors with potential for this type of business.

Meanwhile, the fickle and incompetent ex-governor who left office after handing over CEEE (Companhia Estadual de Energia Elétrica) for 100 reais, liquidating public services and historic institutions such as

Corsan and the Institute of Education, not lifting a finger to defend the

CEITEC (the most important technological innovation company in the State), maintains the worst wage squeeze on civil servants, reappears on TV in PSDB programs to hypocritically say that it is an alternative against extremism (his government was more neoliberal than the federal government) and that his concern is “with the people, with the people of Rio Grande”. No more fakes, lies and self-righteousness.

*Raul Pont is a professor and former mayor of Porto Alegre.

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