Silva Lima (1898) relates that in 1762, Governor Conde dos Arcos found a small lazaretto in the suburbs of São Lazaro in Salvador, that had for many years taken in leprosy sufferers from the streets. He proposed the construction of a better asylum which did not materialise due to a lack of resources. In 1784, Governor Captain General Dom Rodrigo José de Menezes removed some of these 'leprosos' to the fort of Barbalho, who were admitted to the new leprosarium when it opened.
On 21 August 1787, Dom Rodrigo José de Menezes inaugurated the new leprosy hospital, which carries his name, and thirty one patients were admitted on the same day. The institution was built on the Quinta dos Jesuitas and was acquired by Rodrigo de Menezes with money raised from alms. According to Professor Nina Rodrigues, 1 411 patients passed through the hospital between 1787 and 1890. In 1936, the State Governor, Capm Juracy Magalhães, condemned the location of the leprosarium and was planning to move it outside the urban perimeter. At that time, the hospital was full, with sixty one patients.
(Araujo, H C S. 'A lepra e as organizações anti-leprosas do Brasil em 1936'. Mem. Inst. Osw. Cruz, 1937:32 (1) 126-7)
In April 1931, the revolutionary government reformed the public health services in Bahia. Dr Octavio Torres, who was an assistant in the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, was transferred to the position of Sanitary Inspector, which included the role of managing the Hospital dos Lazaros. Under this reform, the name of the hospital changed to Dom Rodrigo José de Menezes. Dr Torres made a number of improvements.
Souza Araujo visited the hospital for the first time on 28 February 193(3?) with Dr Torres. He described the exterior as of a ruinous aspect, and the right wing of the U-shaped building was also in a poor state. The left wing had been renovated. There were forty two patients (twenty four male, eighteen female, including a boy of six years and a girl of twelve years). According to the administrator of the hospital, Emilio Celestino da Silva, the fleeing of patients had previously been a frequent occurrence, but since improvements in the food, not one patient had fled. Dr Torres also offered patients activities such as horticulture, gardening and raising chickens.
Dr Torres had also endowed the hospital with a small pharmacy, and was planning to create a laboratory for examinations and clinical analyses.
In 1931, the following injections were administered: derivatives of chaulmoogra oil (1 944 injections), chaulmoogra oil (5 648 drops), pearls of antileprol (938), pearls of aurocarpol (124).
(Araujo, H C S. 'Contribuição á epidemiologia e prophylaxia da lepra no norte do Brasil'. Mem. Inst. Osw. Cruz, 1933:27 (3) 312)