The Planning Authority has approved the government’s plans for a new regional health hub in Paola, catering for nearly a third of the Maltese population.

The development will see the demolition of the existing boċċi club and public garden on Triq il-Wied, and the construction of a new six-storey medical facility with operating theatres, consultation and treatment rooms, a pharmacy and physiotherapy clinic, among others.

Parts of the adjacent Pace Grasso football ground, which has been in a derelict state for years, will be converted into temporary parking spaces. Permanent parking will be added once development of the surrounding areas, designated in the local plan for a community centre, is complete.

The main building will have seven above-ground levels and a basement, while the whole project will cover around 22,000 square metres, including the temporary car park.

The project, approved by the PA board yesterday, is expected to cost more than €39 million, €33 million of which is EU-funded, and is part of the government’s aim of strengthening primary health care and community-based services, relieving the overload at Mater Dei Hospital.

Health Minister Chris Fearne yesterday welcomed the decision as “another milestone in primary healthcare in Malta”.

The new regional health hub will provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for patients in the south of the island, with all primary health facilities under one roof. The regional hubs will also serve a cluster of satellite health clinics within the region.

People living in the current Paola health centre catchment area will be able to access all services provided at the new hub, while those in the Cospicua health centre and the Kirkop health centre catchment areas will be able to access speciality services, including ophthalmic, dementia, minor-ops, X-ray, ultrasound, bone densitometry, echocardiography, lifestyle, sexual health, dental and ambulance services.

The Paola health centre catchment area includes Paola, Tarxien, Santa Lucia, Birżebbuġa, Żejtun, Marsaxlokk, Żabbar, Marsascala, Xgħajra, Fgura, Gudja, Għaxaq, Bengħajsa, Ħal-Far and Kalafrana, with a total population catchment of nearly 130,000.

The government has said it expects around 600,000 patient contacts at the health hub every year in 2020.

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