Oct 11, 2009

OLD NICOSIA General Hospital should not be demolished, it should be preserved as a monument honouring the thousands of nurses, doctors and other health professionals who offered their services to the sick with devotion, kindness and diligence, within this building, as well as all those who received such services.

It is a historic building that has served the people of Cyprus for 70 years. In the rooms of this hospital, we soothed human pain and anguish, we ministered to countless human lives as they saw the light for the first time and to many others who were taking their last breath.

Between its walls we nursed and treated the wounded who fought for the island's independence as well as those of the coup and the invasion in the ill-omened months of July and August 1974.

The old Nicosia General Hospital is a solid, well-constructed building, like the rest of the buildings erected by the British. The Presidential Palace, the Nicosia Museum, the old ministries and government offices are all indicative of the quality that characterised colonial construction in Cyprus. They all refer to a certain period in the island's history, adding a distinctive dimension to it.

The hospital is a very functional building. It is made of four floors, each one having the same layout, with elevators and staircases in the centre, rendering it easy to move from one place and department to another.

Furthermore, this building represents the specific architectural trend of the decade of the 30s in Cyprus and elsewhere. It was designed by Polis Michaelides, one of the first architects in Cyprus to give a modern style to the buildings he created.

This hospital probably constitutes one of the first indications of a movement away from classical and neoclassical architecture in Cyprus and the adoption of a more modern style, in fact its architectural design blends the two major trends.

It is therefore important that this building is saved for its architectural significance as well as for all the other reasons mentioned in this article.

This is a time of economic crisis worldwide, with evident effects in the economy of Cyprus. In such a critical period, the cost of demolition of the old Nicosia General Hospital and the construction of a new building, to be used as a museum, should be taken into serious consideration.

There is an ecological cost in the whole situation that the officials responsible should not ignore. The demolition of such a huge building and the disposal of the material that will ensue will constitute a major impact on the environment, in a country that already has a unenviable leading position within the European Union and the world in general, in refuse production.

Of special importance is the Chest Clinic and the building on the side of the Outpatient Department, both stone-built. The Chest Clinic is a building of immense historical significance because it was the first hospital that was erected by the British when they came to Cyprus in 1878 and found no organised healthcare services.

They proceeded immediately to erect this building as the first hospital in Cyprus. The stone -- made on the left side of the Outpatients Department has also historical importance as it was the house of the Senior Matron in Cyprus.

These two buildings also have important cultural and architectural significance. They are both stone-built from with materials that were carefully hewn by the hands of master workmen. Such buildings, of the few that have remained in Cyprus, constitute three-dimensional pieces of art.

They also express the unique British architecture in Cyprus. They are therefore important elements of our architectural and cultural heritage, since we have no right to deny any of the historical stages of our country.

I reflect on the hospitals and other institutions abroad that are situated in old buildings, such as the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal Canada. It is a beautiful stone building approximately 150 years old, that was built by Queen Victoria to be used as a palace.

She offered it to the city of Montreal when she realised how time-consuming and dangerous it was to cross the Atlantic by boat for each trip. The city, that was in need for a hospital did not demolish the palace to erect a hospital, but transformed the palace into a hospital.

It is my firm belief that, for all the above reasons, the old Nicosia General Hospital should be preserved, renovated and transformed into a museum, since the Ministerial Council decided to have a new museum in the place of the old Hospital.

The huge Nightingale wards of the hospital have the size to be readily available as large museum rooms. The existing offices of the doctors and ward sisters, can be used as offices.

The old Nicosia General Hospital should be renovated and used as a museum just as the Pedagogical Academy was transformed into an important section of the University of Cyprus and created important elements of its image and identity.

Another option is to make it into a luxurious hotel as it happened with many old hospitals in Europe, including the reknown retreat in Davos, where international meetings and conferences take place.

Even at this last moment, there is hope to save the old Nicosia General Hospital. It is up to people who are sensitive to historical, cultural, environment and economical issues and organisations whose goals are in line with such sensitivities, to speak once again and to take the necessary action so that we can save this historic building. We all need to intervene immediately and demand that the old Nicosia General Hospital is not demolished.

Valentine Anastassiou,  an ex- 

Senior nurse teacher at the school of nursing of the Ministry of Health of Cyprus.

Lecturer of Health Education at Frederick University


The petition addressed to the President of the Republic Mr Dimitris Christofias, requesting from him to intervene and save the historic Old Nicosia General Hospital from Demolition, was delivered by hand to the Presidential Palace. No reply was received.

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