Friday, March 1, 2013

San Juan de Dios Hospital: Neither God nor Money

Trying to save San Juan de Dios Hospital.

The decaying San Juan de Dios Hospital (Photo: W Radio).
These people on Plaza Bolivar this morning were demanding the reopening of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, located in south-central Bogotá.

The hospital dates from 1723 (according to Wikipedia) or even 1630 (according to this book by the National University), altho it moved to its present location on Calle 1 and Carrera 10 in 1926. San Juan de Dios is a landmark in Colombian medicine, having played an important role in research on malaria and other illnesses, as well as immunology, care of premature infants and plastic surgery. As the National University's training hospital, San Juan de Dios trained generations of Colombian doctors and nurses.

But in 2000 the Pastrana administration shut the hospital, saying that repairing and operating it cost too much. According to today's demonstrators, some 1,200 hospital employees lost their jobs, and many of them are still owed back pay and benefits. After the hospital's closing, some employees continued living on its grounds in a sort of long-term strike for benefits.

Mayor Gustavo Petro has promised to reopen the storied but decayed institution. But critics say the cost is too great and the money could be better used elsewhere.

Nicolas van Helmeryck has spent years photographing the people living on the hospital grounds.

San Juan de Dios Hospital: A Story of Disease, Poverty and Death in Bogotá. (Sounds like cheery reading.)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

I like this post.
What an amazing photographer Nicolas van Helmeryck is, his shots are very beautiful and moving.

Miguel said...

Yes, Nicolas is a tremendous photographer. His photos are very moving.