Private Hospital Idea Ignites Criticism - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Private Hospital Idea Ignites Criticism

Published July 26, 2016

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Screenshot of Burbanks Capital

A Dutch company that wants to build a private hospital in Iceland is being met with considerable criticism and resistance. It has also come to light that the company in question is interested in more than just health care in Iceland; they also want to do business with Icelandic natural resources.

RÚV reports that the company in question, Burbanks Holding, has already signed a deal with the capital area municipality of Mosfellsbær for a plot of land on which to build the hospital. The people behind the project have made assurances that the hospital will have no effect on the Icelandic health care system, which is publicly operated, as the hospital will cater to foreigners and those wealthy enough to afford it.

However, Rúnar Vilhjálmsson, a professor of sociology in the nursing department of the University of Iceland, told RÚV that this contention does not hold water.

Rúnar points out that even if the hospital is open solely to foreigners, the hospital would in all likelihood draw health care workers out of Iceland’s public system and into the private hospital. He added that the hospital itself would need to lean on the public system in many circumstances, putting additional pressure on a system already struggling to stay afloat.

The private hospital idea has been met with more opposition elsewhere as well. Progressive MP Karl Garðarsson expressed the same worries as Rúnar in a blog post on the subject, calling the proposed hospital “one more bit of nonsense”, adding that the mysteriousness of the investors behind the project does not inspire confidence.

RÚV did some more digging on the matter. They discovered that while little is known about Burbanks Holding, they point out that another company, Burbanks Capital, appears to be owned by Burbanks Holding – and has a considerable interest in Iceland that extends far behind private health. As can be seen on their official site, they are also keen to invest in Icelandic water use and the power grid, and they also own real estate in Hafnarfjörður through another company, MCPB Real Estate.

CEO of deCODE Kári Stefánsson, himself a vocal advocate of improving Iceland’s public health care system, told Vísir he believed the private hospital would ruin Iceland’s health care system.

However, as it stands now there is nothing in Icelandic law that allows public health authorities – who ultimately decide whether or not to permit the building of the hospital – to reject such a project solely on the grounds that it would mean more private health care.

As the situation stands now, whether or not the private hospital will get the green light from Icelandic authorities still remains to be seen.

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