The Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) doctor’s quarters on Waterloo Street, Georgetown is literally falling apart around the doctors still living there but they are refusing to go until they are given alternative housing.
The doctors, who are attached to the GPHC and the Health Ministry, were issued an eviction order by hospital Chief Executive Officer Michael Khan late last year, giving them up to December 31, 2012 to vacate the building. Summarising the order, one doctor said they were told to “pay up your light bills. Pay up your phone bill. Give up your keys and move out!”
Speaking to this newspaper, Khan said that the order was issued because the building needed to be renovated. He stated that the doctors were “slowly” vacating the building, while noting that the entire building needed to be “fixed up.”
Alternate quarters for the doctors was out of the question, he said, when pressed about providing another building for them. “The hospital was kind enough to give them some place to live,” he stated, but added that it was not the hospital’s responsibility to provide homes for the doctors.
He charged that doctors who refuse to vacate the building were there at their own risk and should not complain. Khan added that the GPHC has recognised the hazard of residing in the building and has since refused to give any other doctors lodging in the quarters.
When Stabroek News visited the quarters last week, the deterioration of the building was evident. The gutters, rusted with huge holes, were hanging on the hinges of posts; a section of the compound was a swamp; the floorboards of the corridors of the two storey building were blackened with decay and blight and the paint on the walls were peeling off.
One doctor, who refused to give his name, blamed the GPHC for the building’s deterioration. He said that years of neglect is the cause of the structure falling apart. Showing Stabroek News his flat, he said that he had tried doing minor repairs in the apartment. But the situation had already begun to worsen. “Fifteen years ago we had written the hospital a letter and tell them about the state of the building but no one came further,” he said. He added that the ministry and the hospital have been dodging the issue and blaming each other over the past decade. “They take themselves completely out…,” he said.
He recalled being issued the eviction order, stating that it was a slap in the faces of doctors living there. “Fifteen years ago we talked about little repairs but nothing was done. Now the building is in total neglect and they are rushing to move us,” he said, adding that he was shocked that the hospital didn’t provide alternative housing for them.
He indicated that Guyanese are encouraged not to migrate but in the end they are left without a choice. “If we migrate to any Caricom country do you think they would treat us like this?” he asked.
Khan, however, stated that the doctors who chose to remain in the building were not staff of the GPHC and were instead attached to the Health Ministry.
Another doctor complained that the building had no source of pure water. “If you think the building is bad, take a look at this,” he said, while pointing at an old rusty water tank. Moss was seen inhabiting the outside of the tank. The doctor stated that they would have to allow the water to “run for a few minutes” before they could enjoy a clean shower. “This is the water we drink. Couldn’t they have done better for doctors?”
He said adding that they would usually boil the water or wait for until the “second shower’ before the water coming through the tap is clear. “The building is falling apart,” he said, “…it’s their negligence.”
He added that for the last two years water tanks on the ground floor were leaking and swamping a portion of the yard. He lamented that the bottom flats of the building were emptied since water would usually seep into the apartments.
Another doctor, who only gave his name as Davindra, stated that once he had caught a taxi and was embarrassed when the driver insulted his abode. “He said, ‘Doc you tell me pick you up from the Palms you didn’t tell me to drop you off at the Palms! This the place they put you?’”
“The Ministry or nobody looks after this place,” he said. He added that he was living in the building since 1992 and the last time any renovation was done on the structure was 15 years ago. “The building is falling apart and the truth is here… the neglect is here. This is the truth,” he said, pointing at the state of the building. “…The truth shows to the public that this is the place where doctors live…not Cuban doctors but our own doctors,” he added. He said that most of the doctors had families, children and some of them did not have the “luxury” of owning a house in Diamond or Eccles. “I don’t want to speak for everybody but some of them (doctors) can afford to go home in the weekends. I don’t have that luxury.”
After noticing that the neither the Ministry or GPHC were making any effort to repair the building, he had started doing his own repairs but as the years went by he was fetching buckets of the water that was pouring into his bedroom whenever there was heavy rainfall. He added that leaky roofs were common among the doctors’ apartments.
Stabroek News had seen small pots placed at different corners of his room to catch water dripping from cork size holes in the roof. Davindra said that he had to rearrange his books and bed to prevent it from being soaked.
“If I say you, you say not me,” he said, indicating that doctors had been pleading with the Health Ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital Cooperation over the past years for assistance to renovate but neither
institution came forward to take the responsibility. He said that they were instructed to leave before December 31, 2012 but they had refused to move because the “government’ provided no alternative lodging for them.
He added that sometime last year one doctor’s daughter had broken her leg while using the stairs. He said that they can only walk on certain parts of the corridor and in the nights it is even more hazardous. He said that most residents would walk in the center of the corridor because they are fearful that they will fall through.
“It is neglect that has caused the decay,” he emphasised, while recalling twenty years ago the building was filled with doctors who had to fight to get a space to park. Now, he said, the parking lot was abandoned.