HISTORY OF HOSPITAL POINT


Hospital Point is situated on the western end of Solarte Island. Christopher Columbus sailed in front of the island during his fourth voyage in 1502.

As english-speaking bucaneers, pirates and colonists, came during the next three centuries the island became known as Nancy's Cay. In United Fruit Company medical files from 1899 to 1920, "Nances Cay", is used. The Spanish name of the island is Solarte.

Hospital Towards the end of the 19th century, the banana business prospered and people from different countries came to the islands to take advantage of this new industry.

Several banana companies operated in Bocas del Toro during the last years of the 19th century. In 1899 the giant United Fruit Company replaced all other banana interests in the region, establishing their main office in the city of Bocas del Toro. To ensure a healthy and functional work force, the company built a Medical Center on the west end of Solarte, a place that came to be known as Hospital Point.

The United Fruit Co. recognized that their investments would be exposed to big risks unless they improved public health standards. It had just been discovered that yellow fever and malaria were transmitted by mosquitoes. By isolating the victims and destroying the breeding sites of the mosquito, these devastating diseases could be controlled.

Main building The Hospital Service of the United Fruit Co. in Bocas del Toro was installed on August 20, 1899. Little was known about appropriate sanitary methods and malaria and yellow fever were very common. The first two years proved to be the worst in the Company's history, with a mortality rate over 5%. The new building in Solarte, described as a principal hospital with an annex, was inaugurated on June 23, 1900.

The footnotes in old pictures make a reference to this facility as "Quarantine Island".

Solarte is 2 kilometers to the east of Bocas del Toro city, and this isolated the Medical Center from the sickness and health problems rampant in Colon Island where Bocas del Toro is located. Before the hospital, this part of the island was inhabited by a few creole families.

The Medical Center accommodated 6 administrative patients. There, were also the Director's residence, a kitchen and a pharmacy. The other patients were attended to in the annex.

In 1904, a Hospital was built for the colored people, a house for the Division Manager and another for the physicians. In 1914, a building for surgery, a laboratory, a pharmacy and an office, were added. In total, the Medical Center was comprised of 16 buildings, grouped together on the narrow and steep point, on only 8 hectare of land, 9 meters above sea level.

Main room When the banana plantations on the islands and on the shores died from a fungus disease, the plantations were moved to the plains on the mainland. The Medical Center of Solarte was closed in 1920 after only two decades of use. The buildings were dismantled and the forest quickly covered this part of the island until recently when private homes were built here.

N. of E.: Today, visitors can appreciate the remains of concrete columns and sidewalks of the complex. In the nearby forest are several tombs, some identified and others not. In the sea, snorkellers and divers can appreciate the history of Hospital Point in the form of rails, ceramic and bottles.


(from the book "History of Hospital Point" by CLYDE STEVENS)