Pendeli land debate

When the children’s psychiatric hospital at Pendeli closed down in early September, the Municipality of Rafina wanted to develop the 46 hectares of the institution, school, nursery and sports ground of the existing infrastructure. The municipality’s plans, however, are at odds with the wishes of local residents who want to see the area reforested (it had been razed by a forest fire in 2005). They want to ensure that the area is not used in any way that may pose a fire hazard to what little forestland remains, while also putting a stop to any construction plans. The Municipality of Rafina is demanding a share of the 46 hectares, arguing that a large part of the area should be put to good use and help solve the municipality’s shortage of land to build much-needed schools. Specifically, after the buildings were deinstitutionalized, the Rafina Municipality asked for the right to use the indoor sports facilities, which had lain inert for years. The municipality received no response from the Health Ministry, which is responsible for the facilities. Next, it asked for the right to open a school, kindergarten and a nursery school, but has not received an answer to these requests either. The only response the municipality has had from local authorities is that the construction of a new hospital on the plot will take up 10 hectares of land. Local environmental groups, for their part, are demanding that the remaining land be reforested. «For some inexplicable reason,» say local environmentalists, «the area was never listed for reforestation after the destructive fires in Rafina in July 2005, which razed 350 hectares of forestland and threatened many homes. If the new hospital requires just 10 hectares of the 46 hectares ceded to the Health Ministry, why should the remainder be excluded from reforestation? The patients have been moved to new accommodation while the new hospital is built and the old building is already being torn down. It is high time the state gave the green light for reforestation.» The plan is to improve the outpatients’ department and to create a long-term care unit on the premises of the children’s psychiatric hospital that can operate there at least until a new hospital is built in the area. However, 12 children remain in the hospital, patients in the intensive-care unit. Georgia Sideri, administrator of the Attica Children’s Psychiatric Hospital (PNA), says: «The aim is for these children to return home and to be regularly monitored by the PNA clinics. Should they need long-term care, they can be placed in one of the hospital’s rehabilitation centers.» This has already been done with the 93 patients that used to be at the hospital and have now been transferred to various other clinics of the PNA. According to Sideri, the ICU will remain in operation at the current site, as will certain administrative departments and the outpatients’ clinics that treat local residents. The hospital is also planning the development of an autism and developmental disorders department – in which PNA specializes – at the site. The Health Ministry has said that it intends to put the existing infrastructure to use and to also build a general hospital that will serve the residents of Eastern Attica. The new hospital will have 440 beds and offer most medical services. According to Sideri, the hospital building will occupy 4.5 hectares and the surrounding park another 5.5 hectares. Right now some 7 hectares are being used, while a plot has also been assigned for an elementary school and another area for the Paremvasi drug rehabilitation center.