January 22, 2013 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom 

Back in the day when you learnt that a patient was placed “under the clock” at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, you planned for the worse.
Being “under the clock” developed into a kind of local folklore with many people actually believing that once you were placed in that particular ward, at that location, you were being consigned to your death bed.
Under the clock referred in those days to a ward in one of the monstrous old wooden buildings in the compound of the Public Hospital (Georgetown).
In fact, almost all of the buildings were dormitory-like wooden structures which overtime were overrun with wood ants and were not satisfactorily maintained. The result was that the entire place was worse than a prison. The toilets were overflowing, the place was unkempt. It was depressing back in the day to go to that hospital.
Those old wooden buildings, however, were cooler than building a similar concrete structure but the maintenance cost would have no doubt been prohibitive.
The British did their best to keep those wooden structures in good shape, worthy of a hospital but overtime there was simply no money to repaint them, or even to keep them clean and the external neglect also began to be symptomatic of the treatment one could have expected inside.
Today, the compound where those old wooden buildings used to be is now transformed.
It is amazing what has been put in its place. Impressive new concrete structures have been established and what is really good about the design is that they are very well ventilated and, in fact, are much cooler than the old wooden structures that they replaced.
The old “accident ward” has now been pulled down. It was quite an experience going into that old wooden accident ward since you saw the effects of road accidents there and the mangled bodies of the victims. It was not a pleasant sight at all and the musky and drab nature of the old wooden building was equally depressing.
All of that has now changed and the government has built, with the assistance of the Inter-American Development Bank, a really impressive new ward, three stories high. It replaces the old accident and emergency ward.
It is clean, it is modern and it has all the amenities, including a waiting room for visitors. And best of all, it is a concrete and steel structure which means that maintenance costs will only be a small fraction of what they used to be.
While the old wooden buildings would have been part of our heritage, they had become too run-down and derelict. The Public Hospital (Georgetown) is now one of the best hospitals, if not the best, in Guyana in terms of the facilities that it has in place and while it is always sad to see an old building come down, it seems now only a matter of time before some of the other older buildings in that compound are leveled and new structures put up.
The good thing is that everything in there is free of cost and Guyanese unfortunately are taking this for granted.
As I was passing on the pavement outside of the hospital, I heard a scream coming from another new building that has been established and which houses the female surgical ward. That scream brought back memories of “the clock” when such sounds signaled the death of someone.
The screams that I heard were not, however, about someone dying. They were premature reactions. They emanated from family members of an ailing patient who on seeing him hooked up to all those fancy machines that they now have, felt that he was on his last. They panicked and started to scream and were told to calm down.
A few days later, when I visited again, the man was unhooked from the machines and was sitting up in bed. The superstition of “the clock” had passed.

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