…Ground being rehabilitated
A multi-million-dollar venture is ongoing at the National Psychiatric Hospital, known as Mental Hospital, situated at Fort Canje, East Berbice. The institution which was once called the Lunatic Asylum, was first situated at Asylum Street, New Amsterdam, (hence the name of the street) before being moved to its present location.
According to acting administrator Luana Sulker the work is being undertaken by the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Public Health and the Regional Administration.
The idea, she said, is to bring the standard of the hospital to what is used to be and more importantly, up the standard of the facility to what a hospital should be like.
The facility was an unpleasant sight with big bush and large trees adorning the premises. It was also prone to flooding. Reptiles were a regular complaint. The playfield was condemned to a pasture. The decision was thus taken to do the massive enhancement work where all areas will be touched.
At present decisions are being awaited to pull down the old dilapidated and unsightly structures that still adorn the compound.
The facility, which is the only one in the country, is getting a much needed facelift after a number of years of neglect during the reign of the previous administration.
The once famous playfield which is situated in the compound is also being redone.
The facility which was constructed in the early eighteenth century in the town of New Amsterdam was small, uncomfortable and not conducive for patients and staff. After being uncomfortable for many years, patients and staff moved and occupied small buildings in the Fort Canje area named Fort Look Out in 1899.
The building was then named the Fort Canje Mental Hospital; it got its name from Fort Look Out at the mouth of the Canje River.
The area was a military camp, built by the Dutch whose soldiers would use the facility to look out for their enemies. They later left and some English soldiers came. They too eventually left.
In 1899 Victoria Block, named after the English Queen, was built. The female patients were housed there.
The hospital had four female wards, and six chalets for male patients. Among the staff were both female and male attendants, one Medical Superintendent, one Doctor, maids, porters and guards.
All senior members of staff were housed in the compound and attendants were trained in the compound. The female and male attendants were dresses like solider personnel.
Each member of staff was given whistles. If a patient escaped, the attendants on the ward and shift would have to pay a fine.
The compound consisted of one female and a male mess hall form members of staff. One female and one male kitchen for patients, a cinema, occupational therapy, mechanic shops, sewing rooms for patients and staff, butcher shop, printer shop, farm, playground, poultry, two laundries , tailor shop, baker shop, mortuary and a burial ground.
In 1957 Victoria Block was burnt and later rebuilt. In 1995 the Victoria Block was condemned and three new wards were built. Soon after, one female chalet were again completely destroyed by fire.
To date the institution has approximately 200 inmates of whom two thirds are men. The institution being the national one still receives transfers from all other hospitals throughout the country.
It was described by former Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton as ‘disgraceful’ when he visited in June 2015 just after the Coalition Government took power. The Minister could not understand how people in authority could allow others to be living in such unwholesome conditions.
There were many complains including, the storerooms and wards were water logged and an Acute Center not properly constructed. There was the issue of persons who are brought from the prison, being let loose in the hospital, with no police guard. There was no integrated system in place where patients are treated and could be removed and reintegrated into their society.
The Minister had promised that something would be done. Since then a lot has changed. A Mental Health Unit is being put in place. That unit when fully functional will include clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.
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