Today I will continue with my posts about interesting locations in the former Canal Zone. This time it’s time to talk about the Gorgas Hospital, the most important health institution in the Panama Canal Zone, named after William Crawford Gorgas (1854–1920).
Gorgas was a United States physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. He is best known for his work in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry them at a time when there was considerable skepticism and opposition to such measures.
As chief sanitary officer on the canal project, Gorgas implemented far-reaching sanitary programs including the draining of ponds and swamps, fumigation, mosquito netting, and public water systems. These measures were instrumental in permitting the construction of the Panama Canal, as they significantly prevented illness due to yellow fever and malaria (which had also been shown to be transmitted by mosquitoes in 1898) among the thousands of workers involved in the building project.
The Gorgas Hospital was built on the site of a French hospital called “L’Hospital Notre Dame de Canal”, it was originally called Ancon Hospital and later in 1928, renamed Gorgas Hospital. It was originally built of wood, but was rebuilt in concrete in 1915 by Samuel Hitt.
The hospital is located on Ancon Hill with an elevation between 130 and 180 feet above sea level, which favors spectacular views of Panama Bay and cool ocean breezes, which reduces the discomfort from the heat and humidity. It was managed by the U.S. Army for most of the 20th century, but is now, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, in Panamanian hands. Since October 1999, it has been home to the Instituto Oncológico Nacional (National Oncological Institute), Panama’s Ministry of Health and the Panama Supreme Court.
After more than a century of clinical and research activities in Panama, Gorgas Army Community Hospital Hospital closed its doors on October 1, 1997, in anticipation of the scheduled reversion of Panama Canal territories and facilities to the Republic of Panama by midday December 31, 1999.
I visited this famous hospital on March 22, 2009 and took several pictures for your enjoyment. This is what I saw on a cool Sunday afternoon. Here we go.
This historic hospital is a priceless legacy left by the Americans who built the Panama Canal. It portrays the magnitude of this monumental building project equaled only by the great pyramids of Egypt. Good Day.