A Little History in Celebration of Hospital Week

“A hospital is more than a place where people go to heal, it is a part of the community that fosters health and represents hope,” Sheryl Rickard, Bonner General Health CEO said in an article about Hospital Week in this month’s employee newsletter.

“Our staff, physicians, and volunteers are invested in caring from the heart each and every day. From providing medical care in our facilities to participating in vital programs in our community, we are committed to participating in the wellbeing of our community members.”

And, in my humble opinion she couldn’t be more accurate. From cradle to grave and all the illnesses and injuries in between, the compassionate, capable hospital staff we have right here is second to none in the industry.

There’s so much in the news today about healthcare, and I won’t weigh in with my political beliefs, but instead want to point out that the evolution of techniques to heal and access to medical miracles wasn’t always what it is today. To give you an idea, here’s a blip from Ken Follett’s novel, World Without End. The date is November 1, 1327:

“The knight’s left forearm was split from elbow to wrist, a clean cut obviously made by a sharp sword. The monastery’s senior physician, Brother Joseph, stood beside the patient … ‘The wound should be kept open and treated with an ointment to bring on a pus. That way, evil humors will be expelled and the wound will heal from the inside out.’”

Yeah, I bet that would work! Wikipedia tells us that the first known hospital, called lying-in-homes, were built somewhere around 437 BCE in Sri Lanka. “This is the earliest documented evidence available of institutions dedicated specifically to the care of the sick anywhere in the world.”

Around 230 BCE an Indian emperor, Ashoka, established a chain of hospitals and in 100 BCE Romans built hospitals to treat the sick and injured soldiers, gladiators and chariotors. Can we assume they didn’t worry about the rest of the population?

The first teaching hospital was founded in Persia in 500. Students were authorized to practice on patients with physician supervision. In 705 the first psychiatric hospital was founded in Baghdad. The first hospice was established in Europe in 1065 to give palliative care to the dying.

In 1487 ambulances were first used for emergency transport. Motorized ones didn’t come along until 1899.

Glasgow (Scotland) Royal Infirmary was founded in 1794. “It is the first hospital to have systematic training courses for nurses and the first hospital known to have an x-ray unit,” Wikipedia says. And ten years later Moorfields Eye Hospital became the first center in the world for ophthalmic treatment.

“Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweis working at a Vienna maternity hospital (in 1851) instituted mandatory hand-washing after hypothesizing that medical students were infecting patients. After the new procedure, infection rates dropped dramatically,” Wikipedia says.

Then 39 years later, American surgeon, William Stewart Halsted introduced using surgical gloves to the medical profession. Just in time, thank heavens, for the first surgery on the heart that was performed in 1895 at Rikshospitalet in Oslo, Norway.

The first specialized trauma care center in the world opened at the University of Louisville in 1911 and the first neonatal intensive care unit was established in 1922, Wikipedia doesn’t say where. In 1950 Austrian anesthesiologist Peter Safar developed the concept of “Advanced Support of Life,” which kept patients sedated and ventilated in an intensive care environment.

Thanks to all these and many, many more advances in medical technology today we are living longer and healthier lives. It’s thanks to the efforts of all the staff at Bonner General Hospital that we spend fewer days in the hospital and have speedier recoveries for illnesses and injuries.

“We are excited to use this week as an opportunity to thank all of you for the contributions you make,” Rickard said to the staff. “Every individual makes a difference in the care that is delivered and the compassion that is shown to our patients, their families and our visitors.”

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.