Pie in The Sky Vanity Projects – Who Do They Actually Benefit?

The Meaning of Shifa’a

Shifa’a is an Arabic word meaning Health, perhaps even Wellness, and is a general reference to the Islamic religious text Al Shifa, a book which promises advice to restore health.

The Shifa’a project in Kuwait is a £600 million new build project, a private hospital and university private medical school. Swansea University, or at least some of its employees, have been involved. Even Carmarthenshire Council’s Chief Executive Mark James was due to have a position on the Kuwaiti University’s Academic board, along with now suspended Swansea Academics, Professor Marc Clement and Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Davies. Perhaps Mr James was recruited as an expert on Wellness? The plan seems to have been to offer Kuwait based students UK medical degrees via Swansea’s own Postgraduate School of Medicine.

Infamous Llanelli Wellness Clinic

Artist’s impression of the proposed Wellness Clinic in Llanelli.

The new Llanelli Wellness project is mentioned as a base for these students, although it is not clear what branches of medicine they would actually be studying there as there is no clarity as to whether the medical “Hub” CCC is planning to build would be suitable for medical students to assist or observe there. A research building for Swansea University at the Wellness Centre is on hold following the University’s exit from the plans. The whole Wellness project is on hold while various investigations, including into the planning, are completed.

The Shifa’a university will be entirely private and will recruit 5,000 students to be trained in their private hospital. It is clear that Swansea University intended to award Swansea degrees to these students to give them UK accredited qualifications. Swansea University would own 10% of the Kuwaiti medical school. The Shifa’a was expected to have a turnover of £450 million within 5 years. However, other UK Universities have found returns on similar projects less than promised and some have had to close overseas campuses.

Confusing?

Now what is this all about? KPMG claim that the project was fully approved by the university, but Swansea University has now withdrawn its support. Their medical school has around 100 doctor training places per year for postgraduate students only. The UK course length is 4 years for students who will have already completed a 3 year degree previously.

Problems had been identified in an internal investigation but the findings precipitating the University’s withdrawal from both the Kuwaiti Shifa’a project and also the Llanelli Wellness Development are not yet clear.

What is Carmarthenshire County Council Going to Do?

No new university has yet been found by Carmarthenshire County Council to replace Swansea and allow “City Deal” Funding for the Wellness Centre, Neither has a new private backer been recruited and the County Council is likely to “go it alone ” and borrow all the funds to build the large Neurosciences themed business park after the planning problems have been addressed. There is still no sign of the Wellness project business plan which was drawn up by Professor Marc Clement but not deemed suitable to be released to the public after appraisal by the County Council’s Executive Board.

“Charity Begins At Home”

Wales has a considerable deficit in medical education and does not train the number of medical practitioners or nurses needed for our country. Why were Swansea Academics and a Carmarthenshire Local Government Civil servant planning to sell medical science degrees to middle east students? Its a kick in the teeth for our own youngsters who cannot even get into a medical or nursing school due to shortage of places. Were the “proceeds” ever likely to be used to expand our own medical and nursing schools or just to line the pockets of others? The police are now involved.

All Show But No Substance

This a recurring theme in Wales of grandiose plans, landmark buildings and legacy projects with vague prospects of delivering real economic growth or improvements to infrastructure. The Circuit of Wales is another example which did not work out. Maybe the Llanelli Wellness Centre can turn £300 million or more of public money into the promised 2,000 local new jobs costing £150,000 each. But without a business plan and the background research and expressions of interest by firms who want to rent the units, there is no explanation of how this will be delivered.

If we want to be an independent country we should not allow ourselves to be victimised and robbed by the “get your area rich quick” schemes so often sold to our Welsh Government and Local Authorities by the “experts”. We do not need majestic developments built on large areas of barren (cheap) land, often in inconvenient and unsuitable places. We need to raise the standards of the whole nation, both in self confidence and in common sense. It’s not the pretty, shiny, fantasy computer generated images we need to see, but basic improvements in our own communities to fulfil the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. Surely we can run our own Country better than this?

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