The realization of the investment program for University Hospital Zagreb was – in terms of complexity, scope, and method of implementation – one of the largest and most complex undertakings in the history of Zagreb and Croatia. The main source of funding for the construction was a voluntary tax paid by workers and citizens. The first tax was voted on in a referendum on November 14, 1982, when citizens of Zagreb overwhelmingly agreed to allocate 1.5 percent from their salaries and other incomes for the following five years, from January 1, 1983 to December 31, 1987. The second voluntary tax was voted on in a referendum on November 15, 1987 and was in effect from January 1, 1988 to December 31, 1992. Over 400,000 employed citizens of Zagreb paid a voluntary tax for 10 years for a hospital that was never finished and does not serve its purpose for public health.
The fate of the project remains unknown, although HRK 40 million was used in the preparation of an analysis of the hospital’s possible future during 2019. The project also came back into focus in connection with the coronavirus pandemic and the earthquake on March 22, which severely damaged Zagreb’s old hospitals, while the one in Blato – built with the citizens’ money and designed to withstand a magnitude-9 earthquake – has been eerily collapsing instead of providing health security.
Exactly 35 years after construction began, the unusually titled exhibition “IN FORMATION IN LIQUIDATION” was opened on May 11, 2020. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb displayed a wealth of records, photographs, official documents, propaganda and video material, as well as excerpts from several hundred newspaper articles on the unfinished University Hospital in Blato collected by the artist collective Montažstroj. This archival material had been created as part of the multiannual interdisciplinary project “Unfinished” and illustrates the history of the hospital from its beginnings to the present day. Although the exhibition did not answer the question of why the project had failed, a documentary film, being shot in the meantime, will try to do so.
As part of the continuation of project activities, on November 14, 2022, on the day that marks 40 years since the first referendum, a public discussion “UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL – A GIFT TO GENERATIONS” will take place at 10:30 a.m. in front of the never-finished University Hospital Zagreb in Blato, once again asking important questions and pointing to the deterioration of what was once dubbed the “health factory for the 21st century”:
- Does the broken glass of the never-finished University Hospital Zagreb in Blato reflect the fall of society and resigned politics?
- Why was work on the hospital suspended?
- Why wasn’t work continued and what are the plans for the future?
- Does the concept of public health still exist or is it a victim of its own liberalization to the citizens’ detriment?
Participants: representatives of the competent ministry, representative of the City of Zagreb Tihomir Majić, dr. med., head of the Department for Health Care Planning in the City Office for Social Protection, Health, Veterans and Persons with Disabilities, patient representative Ivica Belina, president of KUZ (Coalition of Healthcare Associations), local community and citizens representative Jadranka Zdeličan, member of the Blato Local Council Committee.
UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL ZAGREB DAYS program – marking the 40th anniversary of the referendum for the “project of the century” includes:
- Publication of material collected so far for the project “UNFINISHED” which includes several artistic works – “SUSPENSION OF WORKS” (2015), “CONTINUATION OF WORKS” (2015) “ENCOUNTERS” (2019), “THE ZONE” (2019), and the exhibition “IN FORMATION IN LIQUIDATION” (2020) – from November 10, 2022. Citizens of Zagreb, experts in the fields of healthcare, medicine, politics, construction, economics, journalism, etc. have been participating in the project for a number of years.
- Workshops with key actors and citizens: November 12 and 13, 2022 (according to a dedicated schedule)
- Guided tours of the 222,000-square-meter hospital’s skeleton-frame under the expert/artistic guidance of Borut Šeparović, who has spent years collecting the archive and tracing witnesses to produce a time-machine that would witness not only the project, but the entire transition period.
- Public discussion: “UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL – A GIFT TO GENERATIONS” on November 14, 2022 at 10:30 a.m.