History of the Hospital
The Rab Psychiatric Hospital is located in the village Kampor, about 5 km far from the town of Rab. It takes up 124.000 m2 and approximately two acres of agricultural land intended for hospital economy. During World War II, in 1942/43, the Italians set up a concentration camp in Kamporska Draga, about 1 km from today's hospital, where they kept about 15.000 inmates, mostly Croats and Slovenes.
Ten one-storey and two single-storey buildings were built for army purposes, but the war ended soon afterwards and many of the buildings were left unfinished. The decayed buildings became children's playground until 1949 when a farming cooperative adapted one of the buildings for their needs. In that building (today's administrative building) were the cooperative headquarters, a shop, a catering establishment and the local people liked to use the rooms adapted for dancing and music, the so called "Zastija".
The pine tree forest, the beneficial features of the mild Mediterranean climate and the sturdy, firm stone buildings remained unused for years. Through the initiative and cooperation between the then Rab District Council Chairman, Zvonko Guščić and Prof. Desider Julius M.D., Clinical Director of Vrapče Psychiatric Hospital, a plan was developed for the adaptation of the buildings to be used as a psychiatric hospital. In the beginning this idea created divided opinions and resistance of the local people. The lack of an aqueduct and the opposition towards the mental patients in general were the most prominent arguments against this project.
The first patients, accompanied by nurses, arrived on 1st June, 1955 by a steamship from Rijeka. There were 18 patients from Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Popovača and 21 from Vrapče Psychiatric Hospital. Then came the long journey, on the then unpaved road, to Kampor in a truck, which was the only means of transport. At first the head nurse and three nurses took care of the patients and the work therapy. The food and other necessities were delivered in a cart and the water was brought from the nearby spring Valanga. After initial difficulties with water supplies, a well was built near the hospital along with an aqueduct that was used until 2004.
On 1st September 1955 the Executive Council of the Parliament of the People's Republic of Croatia issued a Ruling that marked the official start of the hospital's work. The main objectives of the hospital were: the treatment and care of mentally ill patients according to the principles of modern medicine; prophylactic, educational and psychotherapeutic work in the sense of mental hygiene; counselling and supervision of released patients, as well as recording health statistics of mental illnesses. As a sideline there are economy and craft workshops.
The first building adapted for hospital purposes was a 50 bed facility for male patients, which was commissioned for use on 1st September 1955. Because of the growing influx of patients six months later another building was also adapted consisting of patient rooms, admission offices, admission surgery, laboratory and hospital pharmacy. In September 1956 Dr. Petar Draganov assumed the role of Hospital Director and continued the construction works until October 1962 when he moved to the Hospital Director position of the Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Popovača.
The second Clinical Director, Dr. Erich Weiss M.D. took over this position on 1st June 1963 and continued the work with the same enthusiasm of his predecessor. The number of employees grew, the staff were sent to further education, however, there remained a deficit of highly educated clinicians, mainly physicians psychiatrists. After dr. Weiss's sudden death in December 1965 the Hospital Council contacted the Braca Sobol General Hospital in Rijeka requesting assistance in recruiting physicians. Dr. Juraj Sepcic and Dr. Ipoly Haazs MD, senior lecturer, came to the hospital, with the latter assuming a managerial role. Professionalism improved greatly in that period, with all of the buildings being adapted and hospital capacity rising to 340 beds (196 for men and 144 for women patients).
In 1967 Dr. Zvonko Bahun M.D. became the Hospital Director. He takes the credit for more intensive education of medical workers, scholarships and specializing of all the medical worker profiles and other hospital staff. Central heating was installed and the paths within hospital grounds were paved. At the instigation of the Professor of Psychology Vera Bahun, high quality, organized work with alcohol addicts was introduced and in 1967 a department for addiction treatment was formed with the capacity of 70 beds. At that time foundations of forensic psychiatry were laid and group therapy was introduced as a method of treatment of addiction and other mentally ill patients. Hospital capacity grew to 500 beds.
Between 1977 and 1979 Dr Željko Marinić, MD held the position of Medical Director. A modern, medium-term hospital development plan was produced and delivered, however, Dr. Željko Marinić soon left the Rab Hospital for the position of Hospital Director of Jankomir Psychiatric Hospital. Dr. Miljenko Jurić subsequently assumed the role of Hospital Director. Due to a constant shortage of medical staff and their constant fluctuation, new doctors were recruited for whom further education opportunities, specializations and post graduate studies were made available.
Dr. Slobodan Elezovic, MD was the Hospital Director from 1988 to 1991 and Dr. Slavko Dujmić MD succeeded him. The Homeland War years were very difficult for the Psychiatric Hospital Rab. Ninety patients with serious mental conditions came from the destroyed Zemunik, about 50 old, bedridden and infirm people from the Nursing Home Gospić and about 40 difficult and socially handicapped patients were transferred to the hospital from Lopača. The sea blockade, mobilization of a part of the staff to the war front and the hospital’s limited budget made work in the overcrowded hospital very difficult. The deficit of middle-level medical staff resulted in half-way solutions and employment and education of support staff which compromised the quality of service. The accommodations were not being maintained well and investments became scarce. The number of very serious patients with complex social situations predominated. Unfortunately, the lack of care or the loss of family members resulted in many of the patients being buried in the modest hospital cemetery. During the difficult years the hospital staff and patients received support from the visitors of the island Rab, friends and donators from the Republic of San Marino, Königsbrunn and other cities in Germany and Austria and also from various societies and foundations.
Since 1997 the hospital has been registered as the property of Primorsko-Goranska County, which made the County the official founder and owner. Minimal funds were secured for the most urgent repairs and acquisitions, although that was not sufficient to protect the buildings and equipment from further decay. Strategic development plans were overshadowed by a high population of long-term chronic patients with a poor social situation and no home to return to. The hospital was lagging behind most similar institutions in the country with regard to the number of experts, equipment, accommodation and stay conditions, number of admitted patients as well as the range and quality of available treatment programs. The hospital's existence was brought into question considering the staff structure and the accompanying infrastructure. The inadequacy, the impossibility or the inefficiency of changes made room for various interests and solutions outside the hospital itself. The state of decay and the lack of maintenance in that period were frightening.
In 2001 the Hospital received a visit from the Primorsko-Goranska County Executive, Mr. Zlatko Komadina and then by the Chief Deputies Mr. Luka Denona and Mr. Zoran Dragičević. Since 2001 the Hospital Director has been Vesna Šendula-Jengić, MD, PhD. Since then a strategic plan of building and equipment renovation has been established, as well as a program of reorganization and restructuring of the institution. Despite great additional efforts on the part of most of the employees the changes were met with approbation. The development of the institution was permanently followed by restrictive employment and financing policy in the health care system. In 2001 a program of reconstruction of the decayed buildings and equipment renewal was commenced. One roof was completely changed and the remaining roofs, along with the window joinery of most hospital wards and accompanying offices, were repaired. The balconies were on the verge of collapsing, and the balcony fences were rickety. A gradual reconstruction of the toilet-block facilities, balconies, remaining roofs and roof ridges, as well as renewal of equipment in medical and other sectors, was commenced. A thorough reconstruction of the power-supply system was undertaken which made it possible to start using power sources that were economically as well as ecologically more acceptable. The boiler room is now automatic with a possibility of electronic adjustment depending on the weather conditions and actual needs of specific wards. The heating system was inefficient; energy was being wasted due to an old boiler room that was beyond repair. The pipe system that took heated water to the patient wards was poorly insulated and leaked in many places.
The IT system in the finance department could not meet the hospital’s basic accountancy needs. The finance department offices were dark and uncared-for and the other rooms were in a similar condition. Thus, a plan of computerization of the wards and finance department was devised. The wards were connected to the finance department via optic cable and a new accountancy archive has also been constructed. New, modern diagnostic equipment was obtained (EEG, EKG, defibrillator, ultrasound and color doppler, x-ray). The hospital laundry was adapted in part. A gas tank and gas pipeline were installed for the needs of the laundry and the kitchen. New kitchen appliances for food storage and preparation were purchased. Despite relatively obsolete equipment, HAACP criteria were being gradually implemented. The conference room and medical library were adapted and equipped. The asphalt on the hospital grounds has also been repaired and all the patients' salons, two intensive care rooms in psychogeriatric ward, the central kitchen and the administrative building are now air-conditioned. Joinery and lavatories have been renovated on most wards and some rooms have their own shower and toilet. The rooms received new beds, cupboards and floor panelling, the area of the day hospital, a video shop and fitness centre have been constructed, as well as a central patients' wardrobe. For a number of years one of the buildings contained improvised rooms for work -occupational therapy. Now there's a building for that purpose containing accompanying facilities (canteen, rooms for recreational, work-occupational therapy and group psychotherapy). Two new vehicles were purchased and two old ones equipped and repaired. The hospital car-park was expanded and the park is being designed. Within the Hospital grounds there are still some ruins from World War II, the two decayed, unfinished buildings that stand as a testament to previous years.
The County showed a great deal of appreciation for the workers' efforts and gave their support to the work and development of the hospital since 2001. Over two thirds of health workers attend different training courses and additional education which is funded predominantly by the hospital. A considerable number of young experts of different disciplines were employed. After only one year the rationalization of management, large investments made by the County and some, though modest, by the hospital, lead to significant improvements in quality of treatment and care provided.
Despite the critical 2002, the Rab Psychiatric Hospital was one of the few health institutions in the black. The interest toward the suppliers was decreased ten fold, and all other debts to employees were settled. Also, more comprehensive and high-quality treatment programs were made available. The Hospital became more propulsive. The number of admissions doubled and the average length of stay of patients decreased. Since 2001 over 430 out-patients with chronic disorders were placed mostly in foster families or other forms of care. Many symposiums and professional gatherings and conferences were held here. Active participation of employees in conferences and seminars has also been recognized in the wider professional public.
The hospital premises are used by the Croatian Institute for Brain Research, Medical School, University of Zagreb, subsidiary of the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Primorsko-Goranska County, Association for Rehabilitation and Resocialization of Persons with Mental Illnesses and other agencies. Three worker unions have been founded as well as a branch of the Croatian Nurses' Association.
Today, the Rab Psychiatric Hospital consists of 7 departments, managing 480 beds, and employs 243 workers of which the majority are health workers. Apart from the general tendencies of a systematic and permanent increase of quality of accommodation and treatment of the psychiatric patients, since 2004 the Knowledge Investment Programme is being implemented. It is a programme of investment in knowledge and permanent training for highly qualified staff so that they would be able to meet the challenges of psychiatry in 21st century. New departments will also have to be introduced in the future in accordance with the actual needs of the society.
Over the 55 years of its existence Psychiatric Hospital Rab has been systematically developing its resources despite the severe financial and human resource difficulties. Given the fact that it has financed the specialization of over a hundred psychiatrists this hospital can be seen as a nursery of young experts who, after completing their residency, predominantly stayed in bigger centres and cities.
In the last few years many renowned people, public workers, scientists, donators and guests visited the hospital. All have expressed their support for its development and accomplished results. We are satisfied with what has been accomplished and we thank all the people who have supported the project of the hospital's development to the benefit of our patients and all the employees.
On the island of Rab, in a traditional environment, we are daily trying to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve exceptional accomplishments - just like the snow that cheers us up every 20 years.