Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Scandal: Capitalism puts Profit Before People

To say that the Scottish Government’s handling of the construction of a new children’s hospital in the suburb of Little France has been negligent, is a bit like saying the sinking of the Titanic ruined a few holidays . The capitulation of every level of bureaucracy to the whims of for-profit has exacerbated a number of inherent structural flaws and health hazards that has prolonged its opening far beyond the foreseeable future, far less the expected opening of July 2019. 

By Thomas Dunbar, Glasgow Marxists

Despite the best efforts of the local community to purchase the late 19th century complex in 2017, the health board proved all too susceptible to the temptations of neo-liberal market economy by selling up to a developer with plans of renovating the property into student accommodation. A convenient placement of bureaucratic red tape thwarting a campaign to maintain public ownership of significant local amenities. 

Meanwhile, in allocating public funds towards the development of the new hospital, the SNP government proved no less myopic in awarding a 25-year contract to a private consortium in the form of Integrated Health Solutions Lothian (IHSL) amounting to £435 million. Not only has this contract handed a vital component of Scotland’s child health care network into the hands of the free-market, but it has consolidated the interests of private investment in Scotland’s NHS by entrusting IHSL with the maintenance of this premises for the foreseeable future. As it stands NHS Lothian is haemorrhaging £1.4m a month, lining IHSL’s pockets to maintain a construct that, owing to their ineptitudes, will not open its doors until 2021 according to some reports.  

If it wasn’t bad enough that Edinburgh Childrens Hospital’s conceivably innocuous transition from one premises to a more modern faculty was being left at the behest of the capitalist profit motive, the intervention from health secretary Jeane Freeman last month to prevent the opening of the new building amid concerns over ventilation is an irony of Shakespearean merit. This project now faces an interminable stalemate that will drain more money from public resources and victimise young, vulnerable patients at the hands of profit. Expected to have vacated Sciennes premises by January of 2020 to allow the vulture-like property developers to swoop in on their newly-acquired carcass, contractual disputes may see the cost of this development rise beyond the £90million excesses that have already been incurred according to Audit Scotland.  

Clearly the SNP have ignored an irrefutable truth about neo-liberal economics against the interests of public welfare – laid bare by Carillion south of the border. Where there are profits to be made, standards will deteriorate to accommodate it. The major political parties in Holyrood continue to punt this political football into the long grass, but this is simply an inevitable consequence of decades of asset stripping and outsourcing of public welfare infrastructure. Holyrood’s commitment to the ‘innovation’ of free-market competition has brought about this calamity and jeopardised an essential cornerstone of our society, while a hospital for sick children attempts to function through the sheer endeavour of its beleaguered and exploited workers. 

The notion of healthcare carries with it a more profound significance for a society than can ever be accounted for by arbitrary forecasts on a balance sheet. The trend of asset stripping and outsourcing of public services into the hands of capitalist enterprise will inevitably render the right to state welfare untenable. The only people who will ever act in the interests of general welfare, is the wider public and it is for this reason that we must support further action to bring healthcare and the welfare state in its entirety back under the control of the worker.

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