Period before 1946
In their travels and stay in the interior of Suriname, in addition to spiritual care, missionaries were often faced with the health care of the people of the interior. Notes that show that missionaries administered medical treatment go back to the second half of the eighteenth century.
The beginning of the Medical Mission of the Moravian Church ( Evangelische Broeder Gemeente in Suriname ) in Suriname may be considered to be October 3, 1740. At that time, brother J. Franz Reynier arrived in Suriname accompanied by his wife. This brother was a physician and was in charge of the missionary work in Suriname. He was, therefore, the first missionary doctor of the Community of Moravian Church.
In 1765, the German Ludwig Christiaan Dehne, the Swiss Rudolf Stoll and the Englishman Thomas Jones established themselves at the Senthea creek along the Suriname River. The first medical treatment that these missionaries were involved in was that of a Maroon called Jones on January 7, 1766 who was bled. Unfortunately, he died a month later. These and other missionaries have always done medical work in addition to their missionary duties.
The first missionary hospital was built in 1788 at Sommelsdijk at the confluence of the Commewijne River and Cottica River and was put into operation by the missionary, brother Seitz, and functioned till 1817, only 39 years.
The missionaries stationed here received simple medical training in advance.
However, it would not be until the middle of the 20th century that this medical work became somewhat significant.
In 1919, a simple clinic was set up at Botopasi. The watch maker
Zangern who established himself in Suriname in 1901 abandoned the watch making business in 1919 to establish himself at at Granman Staalkondre along the Tapanahony where he started a small missionary hospital called “PRO DEO”. It is worth mentioning that the patients in this hospital slept in hammocks. In 1924, he was employed by the Moravian Church and performed this work until 1933. On March 5, 1935, the then 49-year-old nurse Nelly de Borst started her nursing work at Ganzee, which se did until 1944 with the assistance of her indigenous helper. Patients could be hospitalized by her in a small hospital, which was put into operation in 1937. Nurse Pieternella Theodora Wilhelmina de Borst, known as nurse “ Nelly de Borst”, may be considered the first deaconess in Suriname and the founder of the organized Medical Mission in Suriname. In those days, patients were asked a small contribution. This was considered of educational value but was discontinued when the Prime Minister promised the people of the interior free medical care. The interest of the government for this work was mediocre.
In the course of the years, the need for a more organized setup of the medical work for the entire interior became greater.
Period from 1946 – 1960
The first doctor in charge of the “Medical Mission in the interior” was P.A. de Groot who took over the work of nurse Nelly de Borst. With the arrival of de Groot in 1946, the basis was laid for medical care as it is now administered in the interior. De Groot designed an initial plan for medical care for the entire interior in response to a request from the government to the church board of the of Moravian Church. He advised the Zeister Zendingsgenootschap to relocate the little hospital at Ganzee to Kabel. This plan was implemented and the hospital was realized in 1947 as a missionary project of the Zeister Missionary Society. Also, in this plan it was also indicated that there was a need to train people from the interior as health care workers. At Kabel, a central medical post was set up with a hospital where a doctor resided and in the area a number of aid stations were set up with trained personnel. On April 26, 1956, the Johannes King Missionary Hospital at Stoelmanseiland with adjoining clinic and nurse’s residence was put into operation. The hospital had 18 beds but in the same year it was expanded to include 55 beds.
Period from 1960-1977
In 1960, the organization “Door to Life Mission” of the American Baptist Church in the person of the physician, Mrs. R.N. Lepper, started missionary and medical work among a long forgotten group of people of the interior: the inland Amerindians. Due to the fact that they lived in isolation, this group was hard to reach. After de Second World War, this started to change and the inland Amerindians were taken out of their isolation by the construction of airstrips near the larger villages. Mrs. Lepper centered most of the Indians that lived here and there in various small villages in four settlements in order to start a community development project. The Wajanas settled in the villages of Puleowime at the Tapanahony, and Kawemakhan at the Lawa and the Trios in the villages Pelele Tepoe at the Tapanahony and Alalaparoe in the savanna behind the dense tropical rainforest close to the southern border. Alalaparoe was later relocated to Kwamalasamoetoe. The Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) provided transportation for the benefit of the missionary and medical work at cost price.
In 1963, Mrs. Lepper left and the missionary and medical work is taken over by the Foundation Interior Fellowship (SIF) with the aid of the West Indian Mission. The doctor, Jan van Mazijk, visited the settlements periodically and provided consultations by radio to the nurses in the interior.
In 1966, the Foundation Medical Mission Suriname (MZS) was established that took over the medical work among the inland Amerindians from the abovementioned organization.
The Roman-Catholic Mission that was active for some years among the inland Amerindians and along the large rivers, in the sixties, also felt the need for restructuring and intensifying the medical care provided by them. This led to the establishment of the Pater Ahlbrinck Foundation (PAS) on March 28, 1968 of which the objective is, in the service of the Diocese of Paramaribo, to promote the spiritual, intellectual, physical, social and cultural development of the people of the interior by community development among the Amerindians and Maroons.
In 1960, the missionary doctor, Mrs. S.M. Dekker (Miep Dekker), established herself at Botopasie at the Upper Suriname but moves to Ladouani within the year where she was put in charge of a clinic with a small ward. The clinic of Botopasie moved to Debike. By the flooding of the projected Brokopondo reservoir for the construction of the Afobaka Dam, which started in 1960, on December 1, 1963, the Princess Juliana Missionary Hospital at Kabel was forced to close and a new missionary hospital was established at Djumu. This hospital was inaugurated in 1962.
1964 saw the inauguration of the medical center of the Moravian Church at Brownsweg, which provided a clinic with 12 beds.
In the sixties and the beginning of the seventies, clinics with a fixed bed occupation were opened in other locations, namely at Drietabbetje, Kajana, Pusugrunu, Abenaston, Langatabbetje and Karmel.
On January 2, 1974, in order to make the work more professional, the “Foundation Medical Mission of the Moravian Church in Suriname” (Medizebs) was established and this Foundation was charged with the organization and implementation of the abovementioned medical work in the service area of the Moravian Church. The management of these activities was in the hands of the management of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital.
Since 1973, the Board of the Foundation Medical Mission for Suriname (MZS), who is working with the inland Amerindians, has been conducting talks with the management of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital. As a result, on January 2, 1974, the medical work of this Foundation was entrusted to the management of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital.
On April 1, 1976 the Pater Ahlbrinck Foundation (PAS) also signed an agreement with these two foundations. And so, on January 2, 1977, the Surinamese Government officially entrusted medical care of the territory below the 5th parallel to the three foundations (MZS, Medizebs and PAS). They were united in one umbrella organization, namely the Medical Mission under the management of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital.
By uniting the different missionary organizations a unique progressive form of teamwork was created, whereby the three religious organizations, which were working in the interior of Suriname, were entrusted with the medical care for that area. This is so unique because this organization has a history of trust with the people of the interior.
The doctor at the main station was the central figure who had influence on the personnel policy, on provisions in the construction of clinics, had no private practice but was fulltime employed by the Medical Mission. The task of the coordination center in the Diaconessenhuis Hospital was one of regulation and organization rather than a central one. The central management of the Jan van Mazijk coordination center in Paramaribo was located on the premises of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital under the coordination of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital that appointed a coordinator. The first coordinator was doctor Jan van Mazijk who died on November 16, 1969.
Period after 1977
The work of the Medical Mission continued to expand and, between 1977 and 1999, the number of clinics increased from 17 to 48. A project approved in 1978 provided for the construction of 13 medical posts in the interior. In 1986, there was a serious relapse in the activities because of the war in the interior, which started in July of that year. Medical posts were attacked and were no longer safe. Often enough, health care workers had to abandon their clinics for safety reasons and fled to Paramaribo where they were taken care of by the Diaconessenhuis Hospital. Transportation to the medical posts became difficult and medicines became short in supply. Many people of the interior left their homes, whether or not voluntarily, and for those who stayed behind there was often no food. The Zeister Zendingsgenootschap set up a coordination center at St. Laurent in French Guiana to coordinate emergency relief. After the war in the interior, many displaced persons returned to their former homes. The health care workers also returned to their posts only to find these destroyed or neglected. The reconstruction of the Medical Mission started with this. On January 1, 2002, the management of the medical services that was ultimately placed in the hands of the Diaconessenhuis Hospital was taken over by the Foundation Medical Mission Primary Health Care Suriname (MZPHCS) founded by Medizebs and the PAS, whereby the Foundation Medical Mission Suriname (MZS) transferred its responsibilities to this Foundation.