Built on the site of a French hospital called "L'Hospital Notre Dame de Canal", it was originally called Ancon Hospital and later (1928) renamed Gorgas Hospital. It was originally built of wood, but was rebuilt in concrete in 1915 by Samuel Hitt.
The hospital is located on Ancon Hill. It was managed by the US Army for most of the 20th century but is now, in accordance with the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, in Panamanian hands. Since October 1999, it has been home to the Instituto Oncologico Nacional, Panama's Ministry of Health and the Supreme Court.
Navy Lieutenant Roberto Paz, whose death at the hand of Panamanian paramilitaies (or possibly the PDF) ultimately led to the "Just Cause" invasion, was brought to Gorgas after being shot. PDF military police and regular PDF military forces began taking up threatening positions around the hospital shortly after Lt. Paz was brought in. A show of force by Military Police from the 534th MP Company caused the PDF to pull back.
On the night of the actual invasion, as US troops were attacking "La Commandancia" (PDF Headquarters) only a few blocks away, the Gorgas complex was attacked directly by a small group of Panama Defense Forces (PDF) troops who were attempting to take hostages. This attack was repelled by Military Police on site, who were later reinforced by MPs from the 511th MP Company (Ft. Drum, New York) and Infantry from the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division (Fort Polk, Louisiana). For several days, the hospital came under random fire from shootouts in Panama City, as well as deliberate sniper attacks and at least one mortar attack. Although military invasion plans had not accounted for its use, Gorgas became a default location for the collection of US, PDF, and civilian wounded. The first American casualty of Operation: Just Cause, Corporal Ivan Perez of the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division, was brought to Gorgas via civilian ambulance after being mortally wounded in Quarry Heights.