Opening of the Barbados General Hospital
The Barbados General Hospital was opened on July 1, 1844 for the “convenience of patients.” The idea for a hospital to serve “the indigent sick of all denominations” had been mooted in 1836 in anticipation of the need to provide medical services to thousands of newly emancipated apprentices. During the slavery and apprenticeship periods, individual plantations had looked after the medical needs of their workers. This arrangement ended with the abolition of the Apprenticeship system in August 1838.
At a meeting to launch the project, which was held at the Town Hall on October 9, 1839 John Beckles Jr. moved a resolution that:
the altered condition of the society of this island renders it absolutely necessary for the interest of humanity to establish and maintain a General Hospital for the reception and treatment of the sick and poor of the island.
At that meeting, which was attended by members of the clergy, legislature, medical and legal professions, it was also decided that the hospital was to be financed from voluntary contributions and the service was to be free to the poor. A call was therefore made for public subscriptions for the erection and support of the institution and the Barbados Hospital Society for the relief of the Indigent Sick was formed. In 1840, by way of an Act of Parliament, the Hospital Society was incorporated and its name was changed to the Barbados General Hospital.
The former residence of Colonel Gabriel Jemmott (after whom Jemmott’s Lane was named), “Carlisle House” located on Jemmott’s Lane, was purchased for the sum of £2,500.00 to provide a home for the hospital. The rooms were converted into wards, residences and offices and a new block was added.
On its opening day, the 75-bed hospital admitted twelve patients one of whom was a workman who had fallen from the building and broken his legs. During the first nine months of its operation, two hundred and sixty-seven patients were admitted and twenty-six operations were performed. The Barbados General Hospital served the Barbadian public for approximately one hundred and twenty years during which time the demand for its services necessitated an expansion of the plant. In 1858, a decision was made to add a seaman’s wing and on October 17, 1882 a children’s wing was opened. Additional expansions brought the bed capacity to 385.
The opening of the General Hospital in 1844 “provided for the first time, a setting in which the sick could be adequately cared.” However, despite improvements to the plant, the hospital had become inadequate to meet the health needs of a developing society. As the only public hospital available to the masses, overcrowding and its associated problems had become rampant. After much discussion on the subject of the further expansion of the General Hospital, a decision was made to erect a new modern hospital. On February 16, 1960 the corner stone was laid by HRH Princess Alice and on November 14, 1964 the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was opened.