Albano Pais de Sousa, almost 50 years at the service of the Hospital

Albano Fernando Lopes Pais de Sousa was born in 1938 and started working as a 1st class clerk at the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais in 1957. At the beginning of the interview, he confided that “Rovisco Pais was my life and the future of my children. It was one of the poles of my life, it was this one, and the family and I was there for 44 years. I just didn’t do 50 years of service for family reasons!”

He remembers that he met Dr. Manuel dos Santos Silva, the first director of the HCRP during his childhood. His connection to the Tocha began at an early age. “My mother was from Cantanhede and when my father died, we were left in bad circumstances, with financial difficulties. The life that my father (José Pais de Sousa) used to live, we could no longer have it… I think my mother still took us a year or two to Figueira da Foz in the summer, but then we started coming to Tocha Beach. The trip was carried out in a horse-drawn car, we brought mattresses and walked with a pair of shorts from morning to night. At that time, on Tocha Beach there were only haystacks. People only used them at the end of the harvest, in October, so they borrowed them during the month of August!”


He went to work for the HCRP but said that “The life that was designed for me was not this! I studied in Coimbra where I did the 1st year at D. João III high school, the 2nd year at Cantanhede and I returned until the 6th year at the College of S. Pedro in Coimbra. But when my father died, everything changed. I had an uncle who was a shipowner, he owned cod boats in Aveiro, and he wanted me to study at the Nautical School. As I was the youngest, spent a lot of time at their house. Months before I turned 18, I went on vacation to Buçaco, with my uncles who owned the orangeade factory. I got sick, with an “otitis”, and it got so complicated that I couldn’t enter the Nautical School in October. As there were no economic conditions for me to graduate from university, they thought about finding me a place to work. So, I turned 18 in September 1956 and on March 1, 1957 I was already placed at the HCRP, where I went through the necessary promotion contests.”


When I entered I was still in the warehouses and accounting department “but then I moved to the secretariat and never left. I no longer worked with Dr. Manuel Santos Silva at the Hospital, only later on in the former Municipal Council of Cantanhede”. And it was talking about the directors and administrators that the Hospital had granted the ordinance n.º 17.236/1959 and the decree-law n.º 43.756/1961 that defined the staff of the direction and leadership of the Hospital in 1959 and in 1961. In his time, the administrators were Dr. Alberto Machado and Dr. Manuel Neves (who was from Portunhos). The head of the secretariat was Mr. Eurico Garcia Ferreira da Silva, who was up to the age limit, I still worked with him! When I started working, the director of the HCRP was Dr. Pais Ribeiro and the administrator was Dr. Alberto Machado. Who was my friend until he died (…). Then he was succeeded by Dr. Viriato Namora, who went from there to Hospital dos Covões, in Coimbra.” He mentions that Dr. Namora was also a great friend, having benefited from the total trust in him, to the point of going on his behalf to the Espariz-Tábua Recovery Center, carrying a “Credential” in which he gave him full powers to change on its behalf any organization which it felt was not correct and felt that it should be corrected. When he left, to Hospital dos Covões, he also invited him to accompany him and to work with him.


Mr. Albano participated in several promotion contests and rose quickly. “At the age of 26, I was already 1st officer, a position I held for many years. It was only after the 25th of April 1974 that I became head of the HCRP secretariat. It was a position assigned by appointment and Dr. Magalhães Basto, who was at the HCRP, and was, at the time, in an organization that preceded the current Regional Health Administration, in Porto, knew my work and knew that I was replacing the head of the secretary, numerous times…”

“I dedicated my heart and soul to the HCRP, there were years when I didn’t even take my leave, at that time it wasn’t a vacation… Today it’s mandatory.”


“If I ever studied, I would like to have studied law. I liked all my work, everything, but especially the laws. I still had to study administrative law for the promotion contests…” he replied about what he liked most about his work.


His place of work was located on the ground floor of the Conventinho, a building that, as he explained, inspired the entire architecture of the hospital and which had belonged to the Monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra. His office room still displayed the original vaults of the building “and I think they still remain”. On the upper floor lived the Sisters of S. Vicente de Paulo who “always did an exceptional job at the Hospital”. The expansion of the same was already carried out when it was there, in the part of the garage, next to the bell tower. On the side and back of the convent there was a backyard with a vegetable garden, which was occupied by an employee “whom we called monk”.


Designed by the architect Carlos Ramos in the late 1930s, the main pavilions, all facing west, were only inaugurated in 1947, due to difficulties arising from the war. Mr. Albano hastened to clarify with the enthusiasm of those who studied this question that “the entrance was made there. Because of the old road to the Morros place. And that the old gate and the wall were still there when the visit took place to assess the feasibility of the site for the construction of the Hospital-Colónia”, led by Professor Bissaya Barreto and by Dr. Mário Pais de Sousa, Minister of the Interior, who was Mr. Albano’s paternal uncle. “I still remember a landmark with an S and a cross – from Santa Cruz,” added.


We wanted to understand what the administrative services of the HCRP were doing and Mr. Albano explained: “We organized the administrative processes of patients and staff, where their biographical record was updated, in addition to the record of all incoming and outgoing correspondence of the HCRP and we would act as secretary to the Management Council. The administrative processes included, for example, birth certificates and admission statements that patients needed. The clinical file was separate. We also organized the internal service notes, which included indications from the Ministries, the Institute for Assistance to Lepers, the Hospital administration and the resolutions of any disciplinary proceedings. Its internal distribution was weekly and ensured by an employee who circulated between the pavilions by bicycle. We also did all the admission and departure services for the staff. Entrance and exit contests for retirement, among others.”


When Mr. Albano took up his duties, the HCRP had already been in operation for a decade – “it was working at full capacity, and we had more than 1.100 patients!”


The “Hospital was self-sufficient, it had everything. The medium was poor. But nothing could be missing there. The water, for example, was treated right there. The HCRP had a laundry room, warehouses, a kitchen and a pantry… There were carpenters, shoemakers, mechanics, tailors and seamstresses and the sick worked and had an inpatient department, which worked next to the Conventinho. There were workers’ brigades – it was provided for by law. The sick workers were organized and had inspectors who indicated who was and who was not on duty that day. There was a sick account in the secretary’s office. And they could send the money they earned home to their family, with the help of the Hospital’s social service. This secretary of patients also allowed for some mediation: “several problems were raised by the secretary of patients to the secretary of health. In disciplinary proceedings, for example, we had an employee who listened to the sick, in a place next to the Conventinho. Patients presented their reasons and then the process was ‘judged’ by the director according to the regulation.”

In pavilion 9, there was a small prison that “created a lot of confusion for the sick” but Mr. Albano explained that “there were patients with a prison sentence, and they came to serve it there. Then there were contagious patients who fled, who did not want to be in the Hospital, even when the law required them [1]. In these cases, the Guarda Nacional Republicana got involved, they were punished and for that they served their sentences there.”


In the hospital pavilion, the pharmacy, the offices of the external doctors who came to give consultations were located, which Mr. Albano recalled: “a doctor who was from the burn unit of the HUC (Dr. Veiga Vieira), another from the Bissaya Barreto Maternity Hospital, (Dr. Rocha Santos), dentists (Dr. Cândido, Dr. Arnaud, Dr. Rui Cristóvão, among others) and an ophthalmologist (Dr. Albergaria Pinheiro). The operating room was also open, where Professor Bissaya Barreto operated… I still knew him. After Dr. Pais Ribeiro left the HCRP, Professor Bissaya Barreto returned and chaired the Management Council. And I even went to secretary the meetings when the head of the secretariat was not there. I was already an official and he was watching me closely, but he didn’t say anything…”

In 1962, services were expanded with the creation of the Espariz Recovery Center (Tábua), a manor house on a farm that served as a “place of passage, welcoming the sick as they were discharged, in order to prepare for their future reintegration. Contacts were made by Professor Bissaya Barreto and the property was acquired at the time of the administrator Dr. Alberto Machado. The center had a director and supervisor, his name was Armando, he had been a supervisor for the sick at the Hospital, and then moved there. And I even got to do service there a few times.”


“This Hospital was internationally known” and there were several personalities. Mr. Albano recalled two of these that particularly marked him – that of an Indonesian prince, who was hospitalized and was visited daily by his secretary, who was staying at the Grande Hotel in Figueira da Foz; and the visit of the Minister of Health of Persia, accompanied by his wife. In the latter case, he mentioned that the couple even participated in a dance organized in the employees’ neighborhood, where there was a cafeteria, which we jokingly called the ‘Monkey Hotel’!”


From an assistance point of view, “Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais was built to solve the problem of illness and patients, and for that, sulfones were relied on. It fulfilled its mission and there were never any cases of contagion among employees!”


Finally, he wanted to talk about the two main themes, which were the reason for the existence of the HCRP. “The figure of his mentor, the character, the distinguished person, who was Professor Bissaya-Barreto, who built a unique medical-social work in the center of the country, in the beauty of Rovisco Pais, in its architecture and its gardens (which it is said that it was Professor Bissaya-Barreto himself, who drew) and in his patients, that I had the opportunity to see “in loco”, in the mountains and village of Soajo, the drama, tragedy, social exclusion and inhuman conditions in which “leprosy” patients lived when, on duty, I went to that village to make an inquiry about the nursing brigades. The patient, whom I went to visit, lived far from the village, in a small “tent” leaning against a boulder, on the ground floor, with a kind of small fireplace and a pallet, where he slept.”


Mr. Albano retired in 2002 and remains enthusiastic when he talks about the HCRP. We discovered that, at that time, as a result of his dedication, he received a vote of praise, which greatly touched him.


[1] Decree No. 36:450 of August 2, 1947, Government Gazette, Series I, No. 177.

Text based on oral testimony, in 2022. Validated by the interviewee. Interview and writing by Cristina Nogueira – CulturAge