Castrón Rendón and Oscar Arabarco, parents of the regional hospital

In the early years of the 20th century, there was still no hospital ward on the territory of the Neuquen. Governor Carlos Bouquet Roldán decided to put an end to this situation.

The year after the capital was installed, he appointed a commission made up of Dr. Julio Pelagatti, Don Pedro Linares, and himself, to develop a strategy that would lead to the construction of the hospital. The society collected money, for this purpose it organized kermeses, among other things.

In 1910 the delegate of the Ministry arrived by train in Alto Valle. He got off a few kilometers before reaching Neuquén, in Allen. He carried a letter sent by the President of the Republic and had to be delivered to Don Patricio Piñeiro Sorondo, at the time the founder of the Rio Negro town.

In the letter, he was informed of the intention to establish a hospital in Neuquén. When they left for Neuquén, the journey was an odyssey: you couldn’t move forward because of the wind. This frightened the visitor, and Don Piñeiro Sorondo, neither slow nor lazy, tried to persuade the official to build the hospital right there, in the town of Allen.

It is because of this fortuitous event that Neuquén did not have a regional hospital at that time and had to wait, and the town of Rio Negro had the first health center in North Patagonia.

A few years earlier, in 1909, an infirmary had been installed, attended by the government doctor, Don Julio Pelagatti. Don Edelman tells in his book First history of Neuquén: “The First Public Assistance was delivered to the service, in a rented space, on July 23, 1913, with a capacity of 15 beds, under the direction of Dr. Ventura Robledo; He was succeeded by Dr. Alejandro Iarcho ”.

This medical assistance was installed in an old house, located in front of the railroad tracks, between Láinez and September 12, where today there is a supermarket. Then the own building was built in Talero and Buenos Aires. It had two rooms, one for each sex. In its beginnings it was known as the First Aid Room, to later become the “Local Hospital”. Here Doctor Eduardo began to stand out Castro Rendon.

Dr. Eduardo Castro Rendón

Inés, one of the daughters of Dr. Castro Rendón, tells the story and is transported to Neuquén yesterday. Framed photographs of the First Public Assistance and the doctor attending “in that modest room, in a room with its old walls, hung on one of the walls of his home.”

Castro Rendón was born in Lomas de Zamora, the only son of Antenor Castro and Clementina Rendón, both Argentines. Antenor was a railway inspector, a position to which he agreed by virtue of speaking English, the language of the train owners. Clementina was a teacher, vice principal, and principal of elementary schools.

Eduardo received his medical degree in 1922. When he was about to access a scholarship to study in the United States, he was summoned by the Minister of Public Health of the Nation, Carlos Aráoz Alfaro, a former friend of the Castro family , to travel to Neuquén to replace the doctor who resigned.

Thus, Doctor Castro Rendón arrived in the Valley. Hosting the idea of ​​working only two months to travel to the northern country on a scholarship. But, upon arrival, he was moved by the adobe walls of the Public Assistance, where he had to work as a midwife, traumatologist, dentist and even as an ophthalmologist; his training as a general practitioner allowed him to carry out these activities with certainty.


Castro Rendón attending the health center.

There, he had another remembered man who had been trained as a nurse: Don Oscar Arabarco. Both were inexhaustible. People would attend to each other on foot, on horseback or in sulkis that they parked at the door of the establishment, where they were received by María Soldano, one of the first nurses in the territory.

In the facilities of the “local hospital” it was very difficult to provide adequate care to the sick who sometimes traveled long distances to be treated. They did not reach the beds, and they operated under a sterilized sheet to cover themselves from the earth and insects that fell from the ceiling. The new building, in Buenos Aires and Alderete, was the last building on the top, surrounded by the fields, the weeds and the fences. Today urbanism has surrounded it.

On one occasion, Castro Rendón commented that construction was ready at the end of the 1940s, but it was not put into operation because a door was missing! And the move was imminent.

The deadlines were extended. So much so that on Sunday, April 14, 1940, they took over the hospital, a little by force, since the need to transfer Public Assistance to the new building was immense. Due to this rather bumpy start, the hospital was never officially handed over.

All those who worked in health helped to move the beds, the mattresses, the instruments. Oscar Arabarco came and went with the ambulance transferring the sick. The railwaymen also assisted in the transfer.

The hospital had, at that time, two rooms, a delivery room, an operating room, rooms for consulting rooms and a pharmacy; it also had offices for administration, each with its own bathroom, and a large patio.

Part of the old welfare heritage was a horse-drawn ambulance, a sulky so hard that sick people were terrified to climb. Castro Rendón did the paperwork and they sent him an ambulance, a Ford A model 30.

The hospital floor was initially composed of Castro Rendón himself and the deputy director Dr. Benedetti, who cared for patients admitted to outpatient clinics and performed operations. Gaspar Geordano was the administrator and his wife Lucia the bursar. Manuel Zapana was the cook. Pedro Juan Paredes, Oscar Arabarco, María Soldano and María Salgado fulfilled the nursing duties and many other duties.


Castro Rendón and his wife Emilia Cattaneo.

Castro Rendón and his wife Emilia Cattaneo.

His family

Castro Rendón formed his family with Emilia Cattaneo, born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents. They had four children. The male child Juan Manuel, studied, like his father, medicine.

Multiple tasks

The Castro Rendón couple sponsored the formation of the Conrado Villegas School Cooperator: solidarity and dedication was the way of life. The entity was born to help the children of Primary School No. 2. It was laying brick by brick; Dr.’s wife made chocolate with other ladies. Castro Rendón was also a railway doctor, a lawyer, for which he was related to Don Juan Julián Lastra, an eminent jurist and man of letters who arrived in these lands early.

There are innumerable actions of which Castro Rendón was part: promoter of the Patronage of Released Persons. As a school doctor, their concern was water lacking in iodine due to goiter disease, so they brought vials of iodine for the teachers to provide to their students. Together with Dr. Mazza, a professional who visited the region, he detected the first cases of Chagas disease, a disease caused by the bite of vinchucas that abounded in this place. He was Advisor to the Copahue Hot Springs; He met them when everything was very precarious, but he had already envisioned the future of the place. So much so that he sent Germany to analyze the waters. He had no party membership, but he was a political man. He was Minister of Public Health in the government of Ángel Edelman. He was a fervent Catholic and friend of Father José María Brentana and Don Jaime de Nevares, the first bishop of Neuquén. He was a member of the First Commission of the Juan B. Alberdi Library, member of the CALF commission; He was part of the Rotary Club Neuquén. Between 1945 and 1952 he settled in Bahía Blanca as Head of the Southern Delegation under the National Directorate of Public Health; then he returned to live in this Neuquén city, where he developed such prolific work. A synthesis of the work of a great professional: his disinterested dedication to his neighbor made him take root early in this steppe covered with weeds and bushes.

Oscar Arabarco, father of Osvaldo Arabarco, the author of the lyrics of the Provincial Hymn

Oscar Arabarco was born on July 25, 1914 in Coronel Pringles, a town in the province of Buenos Aires close to Saldungaray and Sierra de la Ventana. He arrived in Neuquén in 1937 because his cousins ​​were here; immediately, he turned to work in health. As soon as he arrived in Neuquén, he had the opportunity to participate in the birth of public assistance, together with Dr. Eduardo Castro Rendón.

Oscar was a man who loved his job: instrumented, administered anesthesia, performed X-rays, deliveries, serums, vaccinations. There were no schedules for him. Work, first and foremost.

In 1940 he met Yoli, his future wife. He had come with his mother, Dona Dominga, to see himself; Oscar, opportunely, was on call at the old public welfare outpatient office.

Yolanda Addamo, YoliShe was born in the Federal Capital on May 2, 1925 and when she was very young she lived in Fernández Oro; his father, who was Italian, came to work on the farms. In 1944 Yoli and Oscar got married. Osvaldo was born from that union and Mirtha, who gave them two granddaughters.

The family lived in a small house that had a large patio with a previous patio, on the corner of Salta and Roca. Osvaldo, the eldest of the children, was born there.

In the hospital, Oscar did everything: they would find him in the pharmacy if medicines had to be prepared, with the scale and preparations, or in the operating room, where he assisted the surgeons at all times. At noon, he toured the rooms, visiting his “sickly”, as he called them. As we said, she instrumented, did serums, anesthesia, X-rays, deliveries, penicillin vaccination campaigns, on foot or on horseback, with repeated hourly frequencies and at home; by day, at night, at dawn. It was his life. And did not rest.


Arabarco in an ambulance in the 1940s.

Arabarco in an ambulance in the 1940s.

Elected councilor

Osvaldo told us that his father was summoned by the UCRI to run for councilor; he was elected, but he did not take office because the government was intervened. It was 1962.

His friends

He had many friends, many of them linked to public health: Dr. Enrique Benedetti, Dr. Julio Dante Salto; Dr. Bensimón; Dr. Ángel N. Romero, Dr. Víctor Peláez, Dr. Eugenio Pereyra; Dr. Robiglio; Drs. Vitale; Dr. Emilio Zingoni; Dr. Roberto Chevalier, Dr. Roberto Raña, among many.

One of them, Dr. David Abraham, was the one who dismissed his remains with a heartfelt and emotional posthumous message. Also the friends of the house, neighbors and family, constituted the emotional sustenance of his daily life: the Franzán family, Durán, Roger, Arabarco (Pocho, Mauricio), López, Llamas, Alonso, Ayestarán, Lombardo, Brizuela, in short … so many. This is also a synthesis of the life story of Don Oscar Arabarco, the deliberative Council placed his name on an artery of the city, a man of tenacious work.

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