The Inter-American Development Bank is lending Suriname $7.8 million to renovate a hospital in Nieuw Nickerie.

The Nickerie Hospital, the only public hospital outside of the capital city of Paramaribo, has 52 beds and 10 cribs for 41,000 inhabitants in the area. It is cramped, short-staffed and poorly equipped.

The $9.7 million project includes improvement of the hospital's inpatient and outpatient facilities, expansion of its diagnostic and radiology laboratories, creation of a pharmacy at the hospital and establishment of an information and maintenance network for the hospital's administrative staff.

The government of Suriname is turning the hospital into a foundation-run operation that will charge realistic fees for the services it offers. Until now, the Ministry of Health paid for the bulk of Nickerie Hospital's expenditures, including purchases, salaries and general administrative costs.

Preliminiary studies conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Pan American Health Organization indicate that Suriname has enough health professionals to cover the new needs of the hospital. Most of the doctors and nurses now practice in Paramaribo, home to 75 percent of the country's population.

The Suriname government expects that once the project is completed, Nickerie Hospital will be able to support other health centers and clinics in the area.

The IDB also has loaned $250,000 to the Institute of Small Enterprise Development, a nonprofit organization in Guyana, to establish a credit fund for the poor.

The institute will make small loans to about 150 low-income entrepreneurs in activities that are outside Guyana's formal economic structure, such as furniture-making, dressmaking and repair shops.

The loans are intended to help the business people buy better equipment and tools.endqua