THE privately owned derelict Patea Hospital is an "absolute disgrace" and selling it was a "stupid mistake", says Whanganui MP Chester Borrows.
Residents of the town are again pushing to have the buildings on the site demolished, claiming they are an eyesore, riddled with rats and dangerous.
Mr Borrows said it was sad to see the old hospital - which was sold 13 years ago by the Taranaki District Health Board - in such a "rundown, disgusting state".
"I was the local policeman in Patea for many years, and my two children both spent time in the Patea Hospital and I did as well," he said.
"It was a wonderful hospital with wonderful staff. It's just gut-wrenching to see it so rundown. It's an eyesore in the town."
A former nurse at the hospital, Sue Walkinton, and a group of former colleagues are organising a public meeting next month in the hope they can persuade Government to buy back the property and demolish the buildings.
Patea kaumatua Sid Kershaw is also speaking to iwi on the Pariroa Marae in Kakaramea this weekend and urging them to attend the meeting. Maori are particularly disturbed by the state of the morgue buildings.
"Let's get something done. The owner has had 13 years to fix it. It is disrespectful to our town and our people.
"The old morgue is sacred, it's tapu. It's been an unhappiness we don't want any longer.
"But because it is privately owned we can't do anything. But let's all talk about it publicly and try to solve this problem."
The hospital was originally built in 1876. It was modernised in the 1950s and 1960s, but closed in 1990.
South Taranaki District Council mayor Ross Dunlop said the real issue was whether such previously government-owned properties should ever have been sold to individuals who obviously didn't have the resources to maintain them into the future.
"Given its location, the site was always going to be a challenge for any purchaser to develop, so this strengthens the argument for some sort of government assistance to help tidy the site.
"Quite honestly, it's time the owner was forced to do something," Mr Dunlop said.
Patea Community Board chairman Brian Rook said even though the board had written to government ministers it was a "total waste of time" because they never heard back. "But the Government need to try and put this right," said Mr Rook.
"There are so many memories in that hospital that just letting it rot is so difficult for the people and the town. Not to mention that the place is now dangerous with rats and cats running through it."
Mr Rook said the owner, Basil Anderson, a demolition contractor, had never responded to any council requests to demolish the building.
"It was criminal that the Ministry of Health had sold the hospital privately for a pittance so it's not their problem any more".
Mr Anderson told the Chronicle that he was a sickness beneficiary just "living quietly" on the property and people should leave him alone.
"I'm not harming anyone."
However, if someone wanted to buy the property which he bought 13 years ago for $25,000, he would sell it for the going market rate of $350,000, Mr Anderson said.
"People should leave me alone. I'm doing the best I can. I won't be going to the public meeting because I don't want to be a target."
A date has yet to be set for the public meeting.