Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is still a problem today in many places around the world. In Portugal the disease does not affect more than a dozen cases, but it was not so until the 20th century. This project aims to preserve memories, sharing stories of those who worked or were hospitalized in the last portuguese leprosy (Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais) between 1947 and 1996.
Inaugurated in 1947, implanted in Tocha – Cantanhede, close to the most endemic districts (Coimbra and Leiria), the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais had as its main mission the study, treatment and eradication of Hansen’s disease in Portugal. It had a hospital with sections for medicine, surgery and physiotherapy, laboratory, pharmacy, nursing homes, residential centers for the sick, neighborhood for employees, chapel, day care and preventive for children. Working as a central dispensary, it also included an external consultation service, mobile brigades, home nursing.
In its genesis, it followed the assistance model corresponding to a “health village”, in which the patients were inserted in an agricultural colony, which was intended to be self-sufficient. In addition to medical surveillance and social support for patients and their families, educational and prophylactic rehabilitation and training of patients were added, either through the adult school, or through workshops and work brigades that materialized new forms of therapy.
At the same time, it functioned as an epidemiological research pole and a dynamic center for the teaching of leprology, either through international courses or through the publication of “Rovisco Pais: Revista Portuguesa da Doença de Hansen”, which enriched the specialized scientific library that held.
The Sasakawa Health Foundation (Japan) has supported a set of initiatives developed at CMRRC – Rovisco Pais aimed at the preservation of heritage and the musealisation of spaces and memories.
Professor Bissaya Barreto, professor of the Faculty of Medicine and President of the Beira Litoral Province Board initiated a campaign in favor of assistance to Hansen's patients. Over the course of four years, the project of what would become the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais was presented in that newspaper.
By Decree-Law Nº 29.122 was created Leprosy Rovisco Pais and named the drafting committees of the program and works, which were part of the doctor-surgeon Bissaya Barreto and architect Carlos Ramos.
In that year, Portuguese legislation established the mandatory admission of infectious patients (Decree-Law Nº 36.450). The Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais was inaugurated with a big ceremony on the 7th of September. The first patients arrived on October 1st. Inauguration video
This year was the first visit by Raoul Follereau, founder of the Association for the Fight against Leprosy. He returned to visit the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais in 1968.
In 1960, the International Leprology Course was held in Coimbra, under the auspices of the World Health Organization. The year 1963 marked the beginning of a series of Summary Leprology Courses, which started to be held every two years in the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais.
The plastic surgery service was created at Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais. One of the surgeons who developed this specialty in this hospital was Dr. João Veiga Vieira. In 1963 the number of interventions of this type was 95.
The Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais started to be under the guidance of the Technical Council for Leprology (Decree-Law nº 43,756), which worked with the Leprosy Assistance Institute.
Beginning of the edition "Rovisco Pais, Revista Portuguesa de Hansen", a regular publication of a scientific nature that made known the hospital's medical, scientific and social activities until 1980.
The Locutório was a small building next to the entrance, where the sick could see family and the healthy children who were interned in the Creche and Preventório in the Hospital complex. This measure was intended to avoid contagion.
The follow-up of some patients through the brigades and home nursing was carried out for several years by the Hospital Colónia, which assisted in the retreat of the disease, as a result of the new forms of therapy. This reality allowed the definition of the outpatient treatment regime as preferential...
There was the extinction of that institute and the integration of actions to combat the disease in the Directorate-General for Primary Health Care. At that time there were 125 inpatients, of whom only 14 were still active carriers of Hansen's bacillus.
Collective discharge granted to inpatients and outpatients who until then were under epidemiological surveillance of the hospital. However, some patients decided to stay and in 1989 there were still 120 patients residing at the Hospital Rovisco Pais.
The Colónia Rovisco Pais Hospital was extinguished and converted into a Center for Rehabilitation Medicine (Decree-Law Nº 203). All the rights, obligations and assets of the former Hospital were transferred to the latter, which continued to ensure the provision of care to former patients in the Hansen Service.