Hospitable hospitals

I am reading about the first hospitals that were established (St. Basil apparently was the trend setter back in 369AD) and how things developed over the next two centuries. The word hospital, according to Hensleigh Wedgwood, apparently has its roots in the Latin word “hospitium” meaning, lodging for strangers, connected with guests, landlord, entertainer, host and conversely the person who entertained the guest”. One website said the root of the word is from ”hotel” and “ hospitable”.

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I may be blonde, but I can tell you now, that I have never walked in to Sandton Sun and mistaken it for Sandton Clinic. Two thousand years later, there is simply not the time or room for all this hospitable nonsense in the hospital world.

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As I read more, the words I find linked to the first hospitals are terms like “caring, compassion, giving, serving, healing, feeding, comforting.” In 2022 our hospitals look very different. The advent of modern medicine likely shifted the focus of hospitals from places that cared for the sick and dying to places that scientifically engaged in the search for a cure and over time, their character has changed significantly. I am certainly not qualified enough to debate the influence our modern society, capitalism and greed had on these institutions, and I do not have an answer as to how to please your shareholders while not overworking your staff and neglecting your patients. What I do know, however , is my experience of what people need when they are sick or recovering, when they are also often in need, in pain, scared and lonely.

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On Friday night, just after a storm hit the northern parts of Jozi I popped in to the lodge and went to check on a new guest recovering from a serious neuro-surgery. The guest was lying on her tummy on the bed and her head was comfortably on the lap of one of my staff. Nthabiseng was removing the guest’s weave, gently unplaiting the strands of hair. I knew Nthabiseng was off duty, I knew she herself was feeling a bit unwell and is tired and yet, there she was, on a Friday night, going beyond the call of duty, being so incredibly kind to a stranger, who needed her right there and then.

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She expected nothing in return; she just showed compassion. She simply cared. It took very little of her to do this, maybe a bit of time, but that gentle action and love is not something you can teach in a class or sell in a bottle. This is just a beautiful servant’s heart that is able to love and care for people in our space. I’m sure that’s what St. Basil originally intended.

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