THE UNIVERSITY has decided to scrap plans to build a 19-story tower to expand the UST Hospital and would build a low-rise structure instead, as efforts to settle liabilities and get new investors to finance the expansion push through.

The expansion has been scaled down but there are plans to build a huge medical laboratory and expand the number of hospital rooms to 800 in keeping with the institution’s character as a teaching hospital, UST Rector Rolando de la Rosa bared. This means the project will only need P1 billion at the most instead of the original P3-billion loan contracted by his predecessor.

De la Rosa said UST is still servicing P600 million in hospital debts which include professional fees, repairs, renovations, and new equipment, among others.

But UST will not pay P126 million in fees being demanded by the loan arranger of the syndicate of three banks — Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank, and Philtrust Bank — considering the P3-billion loan did not push through.

“The loan arranger is charging the University P126 million because according to them the contract is already finished,” De la Rosa told the Varsitarian following a courtesy call with the staff.

“However, I refused to pay because according to the contract, their commission is premised on the first draw down, yet, there was no draw down.”

Plans to expand and commercialize the UST Hospital were ordered reviewed by the Dominican hierarchy last year following an intra-order dispute that saw the resignations of UST Rector Fr. Ernesto Arceo, O.P., Vice Rector Juan Ponce, O.P., and the head of the Filipino Dominicans, Fr. Edmund Nantes, O.P. last September.

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Dominican Master-General Carlos Azpiroz Costa had found the loan too substantial and ordered it cancelled or renegotiated, considering that UST might not be able to afford the terms.

“If ever we improve the facilities, equipment, and structure of the hospital, it must not go beyond P1 billion because based on the income statement of the hospital, it is impossible for it to pay even the interest of the P3-billion loan,” De la Rosa explained.

The redevelopment plans are still being reviewed, he said, and the University was in talks with some groups interested to invest.

“UST plans to construct a big laboratory for the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery and 800 state-of-the-art rooms in the main hospital,” he said, adding that plans for a 19-story hospital building were abandoned also because it would have overshadowed the 80-year-old Main Building, whose cross-topped tower should remain the highest point in the UST campus.

The main hospital will be radically renovated to house the emergency ward, the ambulatory ward, surgical theaters and rooms that will house all the equipment, De la Rosa added.

The Rector said he had asked some doctors to invest in the hospital’s redevelopment plan but there were no takers.

“Hopefully, by this month, we will be able to finalize some agreements with the people who are interested to help us to continue the project,” De la Rosa said. N.Q. Angulo

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