Remembering SVGs First ‘Isolation Centers’

BDemion McTair. Updated 4:19 a.m., Friday, 24 April 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4)

FEATURE: In the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has constructed an isolation facility to safely house and treat 24 persons at any given time.

The facility may be the first of its kind in SVG because of its specifications but, it is not the first facility designated to isolating victims of disease in the country.

In the late 1700’s to 1800’s, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was battling with leprosy.

Two leper colonies were created to enable some form of isolation, separating lepers from the general population at the time.

According to scholarly worked published in Academia by Russell Fielding and Alison DeGraff Ollivierre (page 12 in the PDF / page 234 on the document) , “Palm Island, known as Prune Island before its sale to resort developers, served as a leper colony for stricken inhabitants of Union Island from the late 1700s into the early 1800s”.

An article in the Telegraph Newspaper (fifth paragraph) , in giving a brief history of Palm Island Resort’s development stated that aspects of the island were introduced by “John Caldwell, an American sailor and businessman who first had the idea of turning what was a mosquito infested former leper colony known as Prune Island into a luxury getaway”.

On the mainland St. Vincent, a part of Fort Charlotte was designated and “the pool on the rocks below (were) used for bathing lepers in the 19th century”, according to The SVG National Trust.

A book by Cindy Kilgore and Allan Moore stated similar facts that: “beneath the fort, facing the harbor are some ruins. Once barracks for troops, they were also used as a mental hospital, poor house, and leper colony”.

The last case of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), was reported in 2000, according to the Pan American Health Organization – PAHO.

Not much literature is publicly readily available on either of the two places of isolation for lepers. For the Fort Charlotte leper colony, it is not clear when precisely it came out of commission.

Another important period in terms of disease in the country’s history is its handling of the cholera epidemic in the mid 1800’s.

A publication on that can come at a later date.

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