The leprosy hospital of Tocunduba was opened in 1815 by the Santa Casa de Misericórdia and inaugurated the following year as ‘Hospicio dos Lazaros’. The number of patients steadily grew, many coming from Santarém where leprosy was a serious problem. For a short period from 1838, the State Government ran the hospital, but the institution was handed back to the Santa Casa the following year, as the official administration proved unsuccessful.
A report on 30 June 1848 by Geraldo José de Abreu showed the hospital to be in a poor state. He described the disorderly distribution of food, lack of supervision, and the fleeing of patients, who would go into the city to sell their clothes and provisions. There was also no treatment procedure. He proposed that a team of six doctors draw up a plan to separate the leprosy patients from society, and to diagnose the illness.
In the Santa Casa report of 1906, there were descriptions of the patients leaving the hospital at night to go into the city, and in the report of 1909, it was added that only “leprosos indigentes ou vagabundos” [destitute or vagrant lepers] were admitted to the hospital; others, who had family or means of support, were left to roam freely around the city.
In 1912 Dr Souza Castro presented a proposal on various ways of controlling leprosy in the state of Pará, and in 1914 the Governor, Dr Enéas Martins, ordered the construction of a new hospital with thirty beds in Tocunduba, to alleviate the overcrowded asylum.
In 1917 an extensive leprosy campaign was launched, with the intention of building a new leprosarium in the outskirts of Tocunduba with the funds raised. The foundation stone of this new institution was laid on 4 January 1920.
Souza Araujo visited the hospital at Tocunduba on 31 January 1933, nine years after his previous visit. He noticed improvements had been made: a new administration block, a chapel, a school and the renovation of three old pavilion-buildings. He related that medical attention was given by the Serviço de Saneamento Rural [Rural Sanitation Service], from 2 July 1921 to 30 June 1928, at which time it became the responsibility of the Santa Casa once more. In August 1932, the Santa Casa could no longer maintain the hospital, so administration was again passed over to the State Government. The Director of Public Health superintended the hospital while the Liga Contra a Lepra [Anti-Leprosy League] bore the cost.
Araujo also remarked on the death rate, stating that from 1921 to 1932, 579 patients died, representing 53.4% of the total number of patients. This mortality rate showed that the asylum continued to admit particularly advanced cases.
Source: HCS Araujo, 'Contribuição á epidemiologia e prophylaxia da lepra no norte do Brasil'. Mem. Inst. Osw. Cruz, 27.3 (1933).