|Joaquim Gomes Ferreira Alves
Doctor and benefactor
Joaquim Gomes Ferreira Alves was born in Porto on 9 April 1883, to a prominent family of the financial bourgeoisie of Porto, owner of the banking house Luiz Ferreira Alves & C.ª, and associated to the Clube dos Fenianos of Porto.
He studied Medicine at the Medical-Surgical School of Porto, and completed the degree in 1911, defending the thesis titled A Heliotherapia no tratamento da tuberculose cirúrgica [Heliotherapy in the surgical treatment of tuberculosis]. This study was part of the Republican reform of medical education, which emphasised practical education and advocated the therapeutic potential of the sun and its importance in the treatment of extra-pulmonary tuberculosis, embodied in the therapies of Arnold Rikli (1823-1906), considered the pioneer of modern phototherapy, and on the medical theories of Doctor Auguste Rollier (1874-1958), a defender of heliotherapy.
His medical career began in Foz do Douro, where he joined the Seaside Sanatorium, established in 1916 to fight against rickets and scrofulosis in children, and where Ferreira Alves tried out his heliotherapy theses.
By this time, he had edited a booklet on the "need for seaside sanatoriums in the North of Portugal", travelled with the architect Francisco de Oliveira Ferreira to Switzerland to visit the clinics of Dr. Rollier, in Leysin, known for their innovative techniques using heliotherapy, and launched the project for the North Seaside Sanatorium, in Vila Nova de Gaia.
His actions reflected a lot of his family and personal life. The aim of the hospital was to provide aid to patients who, like his own son, suffered from tuberculosis (in his case, from scrofulosis-tuberculosis), and to treat them with modern solar therapies. Designed by Francisco de Oliveira Ferreira, the building was erected in an almost uninhabited area between the beach of Valadares and the pinewood of Francelos, and its first ward was inaugurated on 19 August 1917 and named after its patron, Helena Dias. It had an innovative "cure gallery", projected outside the building, fitted with modern equipment, such as an X-ray machine and the "model-bed" copied from the Swiss sanatorium of Leysin.
The sanatorium had a primary school, attended by sick children and children from the neighbourhood, and a newspaper, "O Girassol", directed since its foundation, in 1924, until 1928 by the patient Oliveira Guerra. Job seeking for the rehabilitated patients became institutionalised, and the more learned helped the less educated take correspondence courses. The sanatorium promoted children’s shows, normally in collaboration with the Kids Radio Club, coordinated by Emília Resende.
This was the golden age of fascination and fear exerted by this disease, which is magnificently expressed in the work "A Montanha Mágica" [The Magic Mountain], by Thomas Mann, which portrays the atmosphere of Swiss sanatoriums that inspired this type of achievement.
As time went by, the building began deteriorating, until in 1977 it was incorporated in the Gaia Hospital Centre, being added to the Sanatorium D. Manuel II and to the District Hospital of Gaia. In the 1980s, the Minister of Health, Leonor Beleza, handed the building to the Union of Nurses, who established the Retirement Home for Nurses in the facilities.
Close to the North Seaside Sanatorium, the Heliântia Clinic, or New Sanatorium, was built, designed by the same architect who had produced the first studies in 1926. This modern work in concrete, inaugurated in 1930, was built on a dune between the sea and the pinewood of Francelos, featuring as its main decorative element the sunflower (helianthus in Greek), which can still be seen framed on the balconies, frames of the entrance doors, metal guards of the staircase, protection elements of the elevators, mosaics and on some lamps. During the 1970s, the clinic was bought by BPA bank from the Pinto de Azevedo family, and refurbished by architects Manuel Magalhães and F. Abrunhosa de Brito, to house the Institute of Higher Financial and Tax Studies - IESF.
Joaquim Gomes Ferreira Alves, a visionary doctor, mason and benefactor, dearly loved by the population of Gaia, died tragically on 10 November 1944 in a car accident, when he crashed against a freights train in Francelos. Another victim of the accident was Pedro Vitorino, his collaborator and friend from the Polytechnic Academy, who was travelling with him to the Heliântia Clinic.
In addition to the two sanatoriums that are being classified by IGESPAR, Joaquim Ferreira Alves also left a considerable photography archive consisting of thousands of sheet glass.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2009)