Old New Amsterdam Hospital an eyesore, should be demolished

 By KNews 

- former Chief Labour Officer


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.”

What 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 deteriorate.”

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 building.”

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 it.

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 control.

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 site preserved.

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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2010