Three companies have passed the preliminary selection process and will compete to win the tender to build and operate a hospital in Ashdod, reports www.mynet.co.il. The three companies, which were not identified in the report, were chosen by an inter-departmental committee of officials from the Finance Ministry, Health Ministry and Israel Lands Authority. According to the report, residents of Ashdod and surrounding areas have been lobbying for years to have a hospital built in the city, which has a population of about 230,000. The new hospital is to be built on 70 dunams of land owned by the municipality and the Israel Lands Authority in the east of the city. The report said the inter-departmental committee had chosen the three groups to advance to the next stage of the tender process, and would now invite them to present detailed plans for the project in accordance with guidelines. The winner will be required to plan, build, fund and operate the new hospital. A spokesman for the long-running public campaign to get a hospital in Ashdod said the news that three candidates had been chosen was "gladdening" and showed their seriousness. He said he would continue to monitor developments closely and to "stand guard" until the hospital was finally built.