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A Historical Perspective

This historical review of surgery in Trinidad & Tobago covers the past two centuries – beginning 1800. While the author focuses on the evolution of surgery, the book provides invaluable contextual historical information on the creation and evolution of the MBTT.

On December 20, 1814, then Governor Woodford,by Proclamation created the Medical Board of T & T.

“The Protomedicos (Medical Board) shall not give licences in the Indies to any Physician, Surgeon, Apothecary, Barber, Vetinary Practitioner ….. unless they shall appear personally before them to be examined…”

In 1846 an amending Ordinance to the Proclamation was passed. More comprehensive schemes were introduced in 1869, 1875 and 1885.

Problems existed even then in terms of the public’s perception, and appreciation of the contribution that Doctors made to the community. [“More people die by the pill(doctors) than by the pistol(dueling).”]

The MBTT’s Register in 1840, published in Mill’s Almanac, listed the names of 32 Doctors. These served a population of 50,000 – a healthier ratio than today!!

General Medical Practice in T & T - 1800 – 1875:

In 1824, slave owners were obliged to employ a Doctor who paid regular visits to slaves. With the advent of East Indian indentured labourers in 1845, estate owners contracted private practitioners to care for these indentured labourers. The ‘India Office’ formally objected to this arrangement.

In 1875 a comprehensive scheme was formulated for the employment of full-time medical officers by Government, so as to service groups of indentured labourers in various districts of the island, and so as to better service the sick poor.

This was the origin of both the District Medical Officer whose Duties were then defined. This development can be considered the start of an organized Public Sector Medical Service in Trinidad


Inspired by our Warriors
Modified: November 16th 2005, 1:45 P.M.