Memories of a doctor


Dr. Saudade Gonçalo developed her professional activity as a doctor at Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais between 1965 and 1980. She started as a second assistant and ended up as head of service. In an initial phase she lived in the neighborhood of employees that existed near the hospital.


Before going to work at the Tocha village, she did an internship with Prof. Juvenal Esteves, a member of the Leprology Technical Council and one of the specialists in the disease at the Santa Maria Hospital, in Lisbon. 


Initially at Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais, she had general practice in Pavilion 7 – of infectious diseases, and in the five Family Centers, when she was called there. Later, her clinical activity focused on the hospital building, which had nursing rooms for women and men, an operating room and well-equipped laboratories.

At the Hospital, she assisted some pregnant women, carrying out some emergency baby births, given that although there are specialists in obstetrics, they were not permanently. In this field, the final degree work on obstetrics proved to be useful, carried out as a result of an internship at the Maternity Hospital in Coimbra. The deliveries were carried out in the small maternity hospital that existed next to the surgery service, in the hospital building. Soon after delivery, the baby was delivered to the daycare. Parents could visit him at the locutório, next to the Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais ordinance.


She remembers that at the beginning of her medical activity at the Hospital, there was still a total number of hospitalized patients. Most were ill with the lepromatous variant. The other types of leprosy ended up being discharged, thus being able to leave the hospital faster and return home. Discharges to patients were granted if they had several negative tests and did not present any active lesions. After discharge, patients were almost always followed up on an outpatient basis, on regular visits, by medical brigades.

She participated in some of these brigades and how tiring the service was. They traveled from north to south, and each trip could take several weeks. In the most endemic areas, such as the district of Leiria, there were consultation places in several locations (Guia, Pombal and Leiria) where they gave consultations at least once a month.

Along with the oral testimony presented here, the search of the archives and library of the former Hospital Colónia Rovisco Pais has made possible the study and framing of the facts, as well as the knowledge of the history of that disease and the institution throughout the several decades of existence.


Thus, even if they were not mentioned by the interviewee, it should be suggested as a complement to this interview the reading of two articles by her published in 1964 in the Revista Portuguesa de Hansen – Rovisco Pais that allow to know the medical action that was developed at the hospital when he worked there. The first article entitled “Pathological and sanitary aspects of classification”, describes the three known forms of Leprosy – Lepromatous, Tuberculoid and Undifferentiated – and their characteristics. In the second article, entitled “Pathological and sanitary aspects of classification”, he performed a literature review on the topic and compared it with results obtained in the hospital.
Both articles provide an overview of the scientific and practical knowledge of the disease and its treatment at that time.


(Based on oral testimony, in 2020. Interview and writing by Cristina Nogueira – CulturAge)