It is said that the earliest hospitals known to history were those provided by Buddhist priests in India In Europe, in the Middle Ages, the Christian monasteries made it part of their duty to tend the sick.
And in later times there were “lazar houses,” or places where lepers were ‘cared for, and several hospitals maintained by money left by pious founders, in all European countries.
But in those days, the art of medicine was very primitive; and it was not until the 19th century that really great and efficient public hospitals arose. The modern well-equipped hospitals is the child of the philanthropy and the medical science of the 19th century.
In England, the great hospitals (and there are none finer in all the world) are maintained entirely by public subscriptions. It is the pride of the English nation that it does not leave the medical care of its poor to government departments, but provides and maintains the public hospitals out of its own private purse.
They are meant, of course, for the poor, who cannot afford doctor’s fees, and certainly can never pay for surgical operations. In the big hospitals, the poor are treated free, and get the best medical and surgical skill, and the care of trained nurses, for nothing.
The hospitals are staffed with the best doctors, and are equipped with all the most up-to-date medical and surgical appliances.
When we realise these two facts, that the English hospitals are supported by voluntary subscriptions and managed by committees of voluntary workers, and are staffed by eminent doctors and trained nurses, and equipped with all the most up-to-date appliances of medical science.
We can see that the statement that they are the product of modern philanthropy and modern science, is justified.
Vast improvements in the treatment of patients have been made in quite modern times. One of the greatest is the system of anti-septic surgery introduced by Dr. Lister, which has made even serious operations quite safe; whereas before his time even simple operations were always attended with danger, and often proved fatal. In the hospitals, even the poorest have the benefits of these most modern methods of treatment.
In India, most of the hospitals are founded and supported by the Government, managed by government officials, and staffed by government doctors. But the Christian missionaries must be given the credit of providing many excellently equipped and well-man- aged free hospitals.
The hospitals, too, form an excellent training ground for young doctors and medical students There they can watch operations and medical cases, and have diseases and their cures explained to them from living examples by their professors. In England “walking the hospitals,” as it is called, is an essential part of the training of a doctor.