Queen Alexandrines Hospital 100 Years


19 March 2024
The Faroe Islands have issued a miniature sheet marking the centenary of the Dronning Alexandrines Hospital, founded in 1924.

Originally the term hospital referred to medieval hostels, where unfortunate people affected by contagious leprosy were kept in isolation from the rest of society. 

The First Hospital – Argir

And this was precisely the function of the first hospital in the Faroe Islands. In medieval times leprosy spread all over Europe and the Faroe Islands did not escape the plague. This happened back in Catholic times when Kirkjubøur on South Streymoy was the Faroe Islands’ episcopal seat and greatest power centre. A leper colony, created on the initiative of the Catholic Church, was established on its secluded landholding in Argir, south of Tórshavn.

Isolating the ill was effective – the number of cases consistently dropped, and the devastating smallpox outbreak in the Faroe Islands in 1709 nearly eradicated the colony’s patients. Only three remained in the period from 1723 to 1736 – and the last leper patient in the islands died in 1752.

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The Surgeon General

Leprosy was not the only disease that plagued the Faroe Islands through the centuries.

As a consequence of common illnesses, injuries and the isolated society’s exposure to epidemic diseases, necessary steps were taken to provide the Faroese population with salaried surgeons to be stationed in the islands, even before they were sent to other parts of the Danish Kingdom. Documents confirm that already in 1584 the first “barber” (surgeon) had arrived in the Faroes. For centuries only one medical doctor served the entire Faroese population. If someone needed medical help on one of the islands, he had to be transported to Thorshavn and if this was not possible a boat had to be manned to pick up the surgeon, or the patient simply had to wait for the doctor’s next visit to his island.

It goes without saying that, apart from actual consultations or operations, no professional care was given to patients during the course of their illness.

Faroe Islands County Hospital

Finally, in 1829 a much-needed initiative was taken to build the Faroe Islands’ County Hospital on the outskirts of Tórshavn. It was a small hospital which reportedly only had seven beds – but a step in the right direction. “The old hospital”, as it was popularly called, was used for almost a century. In the 1870s, a smaller additional building was constructed, bearing the telling nickname of “the Cell”. It was intended for psychiatric patients. Despite some improvements made over time, the conditions were deplorable. Lack of space despite sporadic expansions, understaffing and underfunding plagued the old hospital throughout its active period.

In 1842, the number of doctors in the Faroes doubled to two when the first professionally trained Faroese doctor, Napoleon Nolsøe, was employed alongside the Surgeon General. He then became a district doctor in Tvøroyri in 1852 and gradually two more district doctors were added, one in Klaksvík and one in Vestmanna. But it was not until 1897 that the first nurses, Danish deaconesses, started working at the hospital while additionally attending to home care services. The deaconesses were also tasked with persuading Faroese girls to devote their lives to nursing. After 1910, the first young Faroese women travelled to Denmark to be trained as nurses. Ten years later, in 1920, and four years before the Faroe Islands County Hospital was closed, an actual training and education program for nurses was launched in the Faroe Islands, overseen by the deaconesses and the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Two Local Private Hospitals and a Tuberculosis Sanatorium 

In 1898 a small hospital with 8 beds was founded in Klaksvík on private initiatives. Six years later, Tvøroyri on Suðuroy, got a similar hospital with 12 beds. Both hospitals have since been expanded and function today as regional units in the Faroese health care system.

During this period, the Faroe Islands experienced a violent escalation of the tuberculosis epidemic, which ravaged the world, and as a result, a tuberculosis sanatorium with 32 beds was established in 1908 in Hoydalar, north of Tórshavn.

Queen Alexandrine’s Hospital – Landssjúkrahúsið

In 1924, the old Faroe County Hospital was finally closed, and the hospital was moved to the newly established Dronning Alexandrines Hospital, with 65 beds. Incidentally, this coincided with the first Faroese-educated nurses finishing their education.
Although the new hospital represented a major evolution in capacity, it was clear from the beginning that space was still lacking. The tuberculosis epidemic still ravaged the islands, so in 1927, a TB ward with 20 beds was built adjacent to the hospital. In 1952, one of the TB buildings (depicted to the left on the stamp) was converted into a care unit for chronically ill patients.

In 1962, the sanatorium in Hoydalar was closed and a new building was constructed instead on the hospital premises for TB and a Care Department.

In 1967, the hospital facilities were expanded with a tall building and the capacity increased further.

In the years that followed, the facilities were extended but these renovations are neither shown on the stamp nor the miniature sheet. This included a psychiatric ward, increased bed capacity, administration and staff accommodation. Since this development falls outside the scope of this stamp issue we will not discuss it further – only state that we have come a long way since J. Waagstein sat on the hillside opposite the hospital in 1943 and painted “the new and charming hospital in Tórshavn.”

  • Date of issue: 26.02.2024
  • Value: 67,00 DKK
  • Number: FO 1009
  • Stamp size: 40 x 30 mm
  • Minisheet, size: 72 x 50 mm
  • Painting: J. Waagstein, 1943
  • Printing method: offset
  • Printer: Cartor Security Printers, France
  • Postal use: Letters abroad, 101-250 g

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