The center of the world, Moai, a hospital within a mystery

Tepito Ote Henua (“The Center of the World”), Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Chile.
5760 karte-9-403-en

Smithsonian, The Mystery of Easter Island.
Hundreds of years ago a small group of Polynesians rowed their way across the open sea to the discovery of their new 63 square miles (163 km2) paradise, eventually naming it Rapa Nui. Some 2300 miles (3700 km) west of South America, the flight from Santiago takes more than 5 hours. They were carving Moai, monolithic statues to honor their ancestors. About 13 feet (4 m) tall, 14 tons each.
moai-statues-03 moai-statues-05
Experts say that the settlers landed 800 A.D. New findings by the University of Hawai’i say the settlers landed 1200 A.D., were unaware of the Polynesian rat on the boats (they found a food paradise in the palm trees) and the deforestation happened much faster than assumed. However, Easter Island remains a cautionary tale for the world. The island was home to a complex culture that fell into disarray due to food shortages and the tribal warfare that ensued.

Easter Sunday, 1722.
The Dutch sailor Admiral Jakob Roggeveen was the first to set foot on Rapa Nui. Then there were visitors from Spain, the Englishman Captain James Cook, the Frenchman La Perouse and Russia. The discovery of Rapa Nui by the outside world nearly resulted in their annihilation.

1888Acta de Ocupacion by Chile
On November 9 an agreement was signed by nine chiefs and Witnesses. They ceded the rights to the island to the government of Chile, forever and without reservation, but reserving their rights and privileges as chiefs

4 minutes video from chiletravelchannel.
2 minutes video trailer from the 1994 2-hours-movie Rapa Nui

Challenges today
Some 7000 residents, some 80’000 tourists each year. The next neighbour is Pitcairn Island, some 2000 km away. The tiny island with some 25 km from one end to the other has a garbage problem – 20 tons of rubbish a day, a recycling plant opened in 2011. In recent years, the islanders have sent scrap metal and cardboard to the Chilean mainland for recycling but it is prohibitively expensive. And healthcare – there is a need for a modern supply and accommodation? Easter Island Mayor Pedro Edmunds about the new hospital from 2012: “It’s a spectacular building, like an eight-star hotel, but the service? It’s not just bad, it’s atrocious,” he says. “They’ve put a tuxedo and a bow-tie on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”

New Hospital Hanga Roa, opened November 2012
Bildschirmfoto 2015-09-17 um 23.09.34 Bildschirmfoto 2015-09-17 um 23.09.12

Investment: 17 mil USD
Area: 5920 m2
16 beds
90 staff
Some 500 consultations
2 operating theatres
1 health practice for traditional medicine
Emergency Ward with 5 boxes/beds
Outpatient clinic with 12 boxes/beds
5 minutes video from the HildebrandtGruppe – rendered animation of the project 2012
5 minutes video mini documentation about the hospital (spanish)


After going through many aspects, facts and details about that new island hospital and remote healthcare as well as challenges of growing tourism – not every new hospital project turns out to be a smashing success it seems. Recruiting here at Hanga Roa is a challenge for sure. The building itself is not some kind of automatic guarantee for success. There is more to be considered.
1331704_86c34707240444_4 dsc00400

Still it is an impressive hospital refurbishment. I am impressed by the engagement of the staff anyway. A hospital in the middle of a mystery. And in the middle of modern challenges and cultural tensions. Keep on.

Maurice Codourey

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