Former Chief Labour Officer,
Norman Semple, has described as “disgraceful”,
the way authorities have allowed the old New
Amsterdam Hospital to deteriorate.
Semple, a two-time national
award recipient, is appealing to Government to
demolish the old New Amsterdam Hospital and the
Victoria Block at the National Psychiatric
Hospital, “rather than harbouring eyesores.”
is left of the old New Amsterdam Hospital
According to Mr. Semple, if
intrinsic value is placed on historic sites in
Guyana then more respect would be shown for them.
He pointed to the Mission Chapel Congregational
Church, and an Anglican Church, among others where
well-wishers and members recognise their historic
worth and treat them that way.
“If Government has no
intention of up-keeping historic sites then the
private sector should be given the option to buy.
Both of these structures are more of an eye sore
than anything else. They cannot do anything to
these buildings right now. It is better that they
demolish them and allow people to buy the scrap
material for fire wood or whatever.”
Shortly after the operations
shifted from Main Street and Charles Place to the
Fort Canje location in early 2005, vandals got to
work on the old hospital. Presently, many of the
thieves remove items during daylight without the
fear of being caught.
‘Junkies’, vagrants and
even some lovers, use the location.
Many of the zinc sheets from
the roof are gone, window panes are missing,
boards have fallen or were ripped off and other
paraphernalia left behind by health officials are
gone. The old New Amsterdam Hospital is of timber
architecture and was built in 1881.
The situation with the Victoria
Block at the National Psychiatric Hospital, at the
other end of the town, is somewhat different and
is not vandalised but the building is in a
run-down state. However, last month, Chairman of
Region Six, Zulfikar Mustapha, said that the
Victoria Block may become a heritage site; but a
decision is yet to be made.
According to Mr. Semple, who
also held the fort as President of the Guyana
Public Service Union from 1973 to 1981, the
quality of service offered at the old New
Amsterdam Hospital was of a higher standard than
at the new site. He recalled that the Charles
Place structure, due to its unique design, was
also tourism attraction for New Amsterdam.
“Anybody who wants to take a
picture of it now, is not because they want a
keepsake but it would be purely to emphasise that
we don’t seem to value that colonial legacy
which not only enhanced the appearance of the town
but was also an institution where many people were
able to access up-to-date medical treatment.”
Mr. Semple works at Main Street
and Charles Place, hence he sees the structure all
day. “I don’t think there is anywhere else in
this country where a similar structure could be
found. It is regrettable that after so many
promises from Government that it would be
preserved and used for different things and
nothing happened. It was just left to
According to him, when such
structures were constructed all wooden materials
were cured before use, resulting in longevity. He
said that this is unheard of today.
The New Amsterdam Family
Life Health Center is situated in the same
compound as the dilapidated old hospital. It
occupies the building that was once the accident
and emergency unit.
At an Open Day ceremony at the
New Amsterdam Family Life Health Center in August
2009, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, had
said the site must be preserved but, “It
doesn’t mean you have to preserve the
According to him, his Ministry
had intended to use the building for a substance
abuse center, a day care facility for the young
and old with a transportation system attached to
This never materialised since
the cost they anticipated was just a drop in the
ocean when compared to the actual $400 million
figure minus maintenance costs. Back in August
last year, the decision the Government had to make
was – rehabilitate the old structure or create
new investment on the site.
Chairman of Region Six,
Zulfikar Mustapha, said the old New Amsterdam
Hospital falls directly under the Central Ministry
of Health and the Regional Administration has no
However, the local
administration pays for security for both the old
and new hospitals.
According to him, a delegation
from the private sector, local officials along
with the Minister of Tourism, Industry and
Commerce visited the site in February.
Although a series of
discussions were held, the Regional Chairman said
he did not have access to information coming out
of any of those meetings. His wish is to have the
When questioned about the vandalism, he
indicated that the administration contracted a new
security firm in February to provide 24-hour
protection at the location. Despite this, he still
receives weekly reports of theft and vandalism.
March 18, 2010