“The construction of the Maternal and Child Hospital began in 1982 was a dream for the residents of Bayamo. Today it is only a memory of the Government’s uncompleted promises.” Video is not subtitled, but includes good images of the hospital.
14ymedio, Bayamo, 24 August 2018 — From the road one can see the eight-story hulk that should have served to heal and care for the children of the area, but which was never finished. The construction of the Bayamo Pediatric Hospital, in Granma province, began 35 years ago and today serves only as a refuge for bats and mosquitos.
The construction of the Maternal and Child Hospital, as it is also known for the multiple specialties its structure was meant to shelter, was announced by Fidel Castro during a speech in 1982. The following year the Engineering Works Construction Company of began digging the earth.
Among the crowd, in that July 26th celebration where Castro played to the audience, was a young man of 28 who thought that his children would be born in that hospital center projected to be one of the “most modern in Latin America.” Now, on the verge or retirement, Reynier Rosas recalls, “I had gray hair, some teeth fell out and my daughter gave me two grandchildren, but from the hospital, nothing.”
“I did a ton of volunteer work on the construction of the Pediatric,” Rosas explains to 14ymedio. “At the beginning there was a lot of enthusiasm and the place was full of builders, trucks and designers,” he recalls. “But little by little it was left empty and even the authorities stopped talking about the hospital.”
In that decade of the eighties, when work began for theBayamo Pediatric Hospital, the Soviet subsidy boosted the Cuban economy and financed numerous projects. Those were the years when the work on the Juraguá nuclear power plant, which stopped after the debacle of the socialist camp, also began in Cienfuegos.
“In 1988, the first signs were beginning to be felt,” remembers Migdalia, 68, who worked as a cook for the construction brigades of the unfinished hospital. “When I started working there, nothing was missing, but little by little the food supply became unstable and the arrival of materials began to fail.”
The Pediatric was not only designed to be the most important children’s hospital in the province, but it would be the second tallest building in Bayamo, a city of small architecture. In spite of being unfinished, its imposing structure can be seen from several places in the local geography.
In that same year of 1988 Castro returned to Bayamo and inquired among the leaders of the Party about the delays of the work he had promised more than five years ago. “Some of those who met him on that occasion told him very clearly that there was a lot of backlog, structural problems and that without the resources it could not be finished,” Migdalia recalls. “But he said they had to make a sacrifice to open it.”
Then, Migdalia says, in 1991 there was a break in the works and there were only a few workers, more to prevent the materials being stolen than to continue building the hospital. In the mid-90s they tried to give the project a new impetus but “it was worse because the situation was very bad and only very little progress was made,” he recalls.
The hardships of the Special Period led to vandalism and on the darkest nights nearby residents took floor slabs, steel bars and other materials to use in their own homes. Some workers took advantage of the lack of control to resell some of those resources on the black market.
In 2003, the Construction Business Group of Granma province undertook the work to enable a polyclinic taking advantage of a part of the site. The work was valued at 30 million Cuban pesos and currently suffers a series of problems that stem from its vicinity with the abandoned colossus, such as the proliferation of rats and insects in its facilities.
“Now, more than ever, we need that hospital because many doctors’ offices and family clinics that used to be in Bayamo are no longer open,” laments Riza, the mother of two children of school age. “In addition, the pediatric hospital that is providing services fails to meet the demand,” he says.
According to official figures, the number of clinics or family doctor’s offices has decreased significantly in the country in recent years. These premises went from 14,007 in 2007 to 10,782 in 2016. The number of polyclinics was also reduced by 9.2% in that period, according to official data.
“This place is a curse, it is not worth rebuilding because it has been damaged a lot by the rains and the sun, but it costs too much to destroy it,” adds Raiza, who is married to a mason who was hired at the beginning of this century for one of many restarts in the hospital construction, without success.
The place that was intended to cure has become a source of ill health. Every time it rains, “lagoons are created on the ground floor,” a security employee who guards the site confirmed to this newspaper. The puddles end up becoming mosquito breeding sites, an alarming situation in a city that in recent months has experienced a rebound of cases of Zika and dengue fever.
Caption: In 2015, a restart of the construction work was announced, which would begin with the placement of steps and stairways to allow the designers to go up to level eight. (14ymedio)
Decades of abandonment have left their mark. The property “has serious damages,” says civil engineer Eriberto Chávez, a resident of the city. The specialist warns about the deterioration “in the joints of beams with columns and columns with slabs.” Given the current situation, a “very specific and rigorous study” must be done to evaluate “if it is possible” to use the structure.
In 2015, a restart of the construction work was announced, which would begin with the placement of steps and stairways to allow the designers to go up to level eight and the roof, but the plan, once again, did not come to fruition due to lack of resources.
Now the province has other emergencies and with the economic straits that the country is experiencing from the cuts in oil shipments from Venezuela, the forecasts are not promising with regards to the “modern ruins” of the hospital.
With the passage of time, the people of Bayamo have stopped making plans involving the hospital, although the complaints about its situation are still heard in some neighborhood meetings or in conversations between neighbors. “They scammed us, an eight-story scam that we have to see every day,” says Reynier Rosas harshly. “I try not to look over there because it reminds me how naive I was.”
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