Wednesday, May 11, 2005

hospitals and medical institutions

Islamic Civilization paid due attention to the development and care of the physique so that along with a resplendent soul, man may attain the highest position in development. In this connection, the words of the founder of Islamic Civilization, Prophet Muhammad SAW, are worthy of attention, “Assuredly the body too has a claim over you” (Bukhari and Muslim). `Ali ibn `Abbas has defined medicine as “the science which investigates the preservation of health and returning health to the ill.”

…Muslims established their first ever hospital during the period of Walid ibn `Abd al-Malik which was meant exclusively for leprosy patients. The physicians appointed to this hospital were granted large properties and salaries. Those undergoing treatment had orders to stay at the hospitals permanently and were granted stipends, just as they had been granted to the blind. Thereafter a whole series of hospitals and asylums for the infirm were built.

Hospitals were of two kinds – mobile dispensaries and permanent buildings. One such mobile dispensary is traceable to the period of the Prophet SAW and was established during the Battle of the Trench. In this battle, a separate tent was erected for the wounded. When Sa`d ibn Mu`adh was wounded and one of the blood vessels of his arm was injured, the Prophet SAW ordered that he should be kept in the tent for the wounded so that he might personally look after him. This was the first mobile military dispensary in Islam. Later on, the Caliphs and the rulers developed and extended them to the extent that all the requirements of patients ranging from medical care, diet, medicines, clothes, physicians and pharmacists were provided. These mobile hospitals moved from village to village where there were no permanent hospitals…

During the reign of Sultan Muhammad Saljuqi, the mobile hospital had become so large that forty camels carried its equipment. As for the permanent hospitals, they were in such large numbers that every big and small town benefited from them. Even the smallest town boasted of more than one hospital. For example, Cordoba alone had fifty major hospitals.

The nature of these hospitals had changed too. Some of them were reserved for the army personnel and had their own special physicians. These physicians were in addition to the special physicians attending to the Caliphs, the military commanders and the nobles. There were separate hospitals for the prisoners. The physician examined the prisoners everyday and they were provided with the necessary facilities of treatment…

Some hospitals were of a general nature, open to all at all hours of the day and night. They were of two types – male-only hospitals and female-only hospitals. Each type of hospital had several departments dealing with different disease: systemic disease, ophthalmology, surgery, orthopedics and psychology. The department of systemic diseases was further divided into sub-sections dealing with fevers and digestive troubles.

Every department had an officer-in-charge and a presiding officer, as well as a specialist of its own. There was also a superintendent, supervising the work and management of the entire institution. There were fixed working hours for the physicians during which they attended to the patients coming to their departments.

Every hospital had its own junior staff of pharmacists and nurses. Their salaries were fixed and were reasonably lucrative. Every hospital had a pharmacy known as the “Store of Medications,” which comprised many kinds of fluid medicines, fine electuaries and high quality medicinally preserved fruit. Moreover, there were some very refined preparations and juices, essences and distilled decoctions, available only at the hospitals and nowhere else. They also had fine surgical instruments, glass containers and other vessels which previously were to be found only in the palaces of the kings…

The portals of these hospitals were open to everybody and no fees of any kind were charged. No distinction was made between the poor and the rich, related and the stranger, local and foreign, common man and distinguished person. In the outpatient department, the patients were carefully examined and in the case of those in need of casual attention they were given the prescribed medicines to be taken at home. However, those who had serious conditions requiring regular attention and supervision were registered as inpatients. The patient would be sent to the changing room and would be provided with a clean hospital uniform, while the patient’s own clothes were kept in the hospital store. The patient would then be taken to the hospital ward where a bed was ready for him or her with clean sheets. The course of the treatment prescribed by the doctor would immediately start. The patient would be given a nourishing diet to aid his recovery and improve his or her health. The quality of diet was also fixed and the patient would receive mutton, beef, meat of poultry and other birds. The patient who was cured of his malady but remained weak would be transferred to the ward for convalescents until he or she was fully cured. Before discharge, the patient was given a new dress and enough monetary aid to establish a means of livelihood. The hospital rooms and wards were neat and tidy, with a regular supply of water and furnished with clean carpets. Every hospital had a sanitary inspector, accountants and other executive staff. The Caliph in office would visit these hospitals, meet the patients and take interest in their problems…


...to be continued...

THE ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION
Dr Mustafa Siba`i
(from Chapter 10: Hospitals and Medical Institutions)

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