Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre shows no signs of giving in to all the opposition in Oslo over the state’s plans to shut down the country’s largest hospital, Ullevål sykehus. The state, which is responsible for Norway’s hospitals, wants to controversially replace Ullevål with a new high-rise hospital in Oslo’s Gaustad district.
“If we stop (the state’s hospital plans) now, there can be many years of delays,” Støre said in Parliament on Wednesday, when he was subjected to questioning by opposition politicians. “That can be a big setback for Oslo’s population in regards to secure and good hospital service.”
State bureaucrats who run the hospitals have been trying for years to phase out and move the historic, sprawling Ullevål from its prime location in the center of Oslo to a much smaller site adjacent to the National Hospital (Rikshospitalet). The entire medical community at Ullevål, local activists and even Støre’s own Labour Party-led city government in Oslo object mightily to the plans, and want to save and improve Ullevål instead.
Støre remained firm, even stressing that it’s the state and not local governments that decides on hospital issues nationwide. The battle is far from over, however, with the city’s planning department still due to decide on whether to rezone and issue building permits at the disputed Gaustad site. The state has already warned it will override any decision against rezoning and permits, which likely will trigger more protests. The vast majority in Oslo who want to save Ullevål Hospital accuse Støre’s Labour-Center government of ignoring local democratic principles.