The National Psychiatric Hospital getting massive face lift.

DPI, Guyana, Monday, December 4, 2017

A multimillion venture is presently ongoing at the National Psychiatric Hospital situated at Fort Canje, East Berbice. The facility, which is the only one in the country, is getting a much-needed facelift after a number of years of neglect. The once famous playfield which is situated in the compound is also being upgraded.

A view of the rehabilitative works being conducted on the National Psychiatric Hospital’s compound.

The rehabilitation is being undertaken the Ministry of Public Health and the Regional Administration, according to Acting Administrator Luana Sulker. She explained that the decision to carry out considerable enhancement work to elevate the standard of the hospital was taken following a visit to the facility in June 2015, by the then Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton.

During that visit, several issues were highlighted, including poor water supply, lack of electricity, telephone service and furniture and the grounds being overrun with bushes and large trees and prone to flooding.  There was also the issue of the Acute Center being improperly constructed and persons who are brought from the prison were being let loose in the hospital, with no police guard.

Sulker disclosed that a Mental Health Unit is being installed at the facility and once fully functional, will include clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.

She said too that the hospital administration is currently awaiting a decision to demolish the old dilapidated and unsightly structures that still stand in the compound.

History

The institution which was once called the Lunatic Asylum was first situated at Asylum Street, New Amsterdam, (the street took its name from the hospital) before being moved to its present location.

The facility which was constructed in the early eighteen-century was small, uncomfortable and not conducive to patients and staff. After a number of years, it was relocated to small buildings in the Fort Canje area named Fort Look Out. The building was then named the Fort Canje Mental Hospital.

In 1899, four female wards named the Victoria Block wards (named after the English Queen) were constructed. There were also six chalets for male patients. The staff comprised of both male and female attendants, one Medical Superintendent, one Doctor, maids, porters and guards.

The compound at that time housed one female and a male mess hall for members of staff. One female and one male kitchen for patients, a cinema, occupational therapy, mechanic shops, sewing rooms for patients and staff, a butcher shop, printer’s shop, farm, playground, two laundries, tailor shop, baker’s shop, mortuary and a burial ground. Poultry was also reared in the compound.

The female and male attendants were attired in uniforms similar to a soldier’s and carried a whistle which was used to raise an alarm. If a patient did manage to escape, the attendants patrolling the ward during that shift would have had to pay a fine.

In 1957, the Victoria Block was burnt and later rebuilt. In 1995, that particular Block was condemned and three new wards were built.  Soon after, one of the female chalets was again destroyed by fire.

To date, the institution – the only national one – still receives transfers from all other hospitals throughout the country and has approximately two hundred inmates of which two-thirds are men.

 

By: Samuel Whyte

 

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