Rafael De Vega Barrera

Category: Doctor
Birth Date: In 1889 (†October 1936)
Birth Place: Zazuar (Burgos)

He studied Secondary Education in Lugo and Medicine in Valladolid. After finishing his career, he moved to Madrid to make his doctoral thesis, where he took part in a public competition in the Faculty of Medicine for a post as surgeon director at Lugo’s Hospital. He overcame other four candidates and arrived in Lugo in 1916.

On 17th May 1916 he took up his post as a surgeon at Santo Domingo old large house which was a bad substitute of what a hospital was: big collective rooms without any ventilation and minimum of hygienic services. The operating room was a room with hardly any surgical instruments.

Since 1917, Rafael de Vega’s activity as a surgeon was extraordinary. He carried out a lot of operations in very bad conditions, without the most elementary means, even without X ray and a bacteriological laboratory.

 Work & Activities

Dr Vega had more posibilities once the new building was inaugurated as St María Hospital in 1930. So, the number of operations he carried out increased up to four hundred a year.

On the other hand, Dr Vega had established a private clinic at Ronda de La Coruña and later a sanatorium at Montero Ríos Street.

As a doctor and surgeon, Rafael de Vega did not limit himself to running and coordinating the services of the hospital but he was in charge of the radiology service and made surgical operations in all the specialities, except for ophthalmology that was in charge of Leopoldo Gasalla. He also attended his private sanatorium and still had time to collaborate in medical magazines all over Spain.

From the first years of his profesional activity in such difficult conditions, we have his memoirs. The first one Historia de la Medicina de Lugo y su Provincia (1917) by Fernando Pardo Gómez denounced all sort of deficiencies, taking a defence stand in favour of the patients’s interests in accordance with what was later called social medicine.

From 1930 onwards, working at St María Hospital, all the charity sick people had the same medical attention that the private ones who paid for their stays.

Owing to the show construction of the hospital, he himself had built a sanatorium at Montero Ríos Street of his own property, where he carried out a lot of operations.

He became very successful and prestigious in all the region because, except for Santiago where there was a university hospital, the rest of the cities were in very similar conditions to those of Lugo.

In the last two years of the second Republic, there was already a very disturbed social environment. After the military uprising, he was arrested and sent to prison for a hundred days before he was executed after a summary trial full or irregularities and false testimonies; he was accused of treason in spite of the fact that he was not a military man.

He had five children: Rafael, Luis, Santos, Mª Teresa and Mª Luz and has 18 grandchildren. After the execution, they were dispossessed of all their possessions and had to move to León during the War. Afterwards, they established themselves in Valladolid. Dr Vega’s private sanatorium and property at Montero Ríos Street were seized by the new regime and his wife and children had to fight hard to recover them.

 Other Interesting Aspects

On 21st October 2006, seventy years after his execution, he was paid a moving homage organized by the Association for the Dignification of Victims of Fascism. A bust was unveiled in the street named after him.