chapter  9
28 Pages

Life on the Ward

Patients in China would have experienced a wide range in the general appearance and amenity of hospitals at the turn of the century. S. R. Hodge's rhetorical question provides a glimpse into what they might have encountered in the 1890s. He was perhaps being more optimistic than practical when he asked: "Why should a Mission hospital be a series of sheds with hard boards to lie on, and with barest of furniture in its wards? Why should we not make them as comfortable as the hospitals for our poor at home, providing such things as water beds, air-pillows and invalid chairs?"z

What Hodge did not include was an account of the difficulty many missionaries faced achieving the most basic of requirements-cleanliness. According to the editor of the CMMJ in 1901, it was a "sad fact [that] wards of too many of our mission hospitals too nearly approach the condition of the homes of the inmates.,,3 Incidentally, the belief that Chinese homes were dirty was not universal among Western medical men and women. When Dr Arthur Stanley, the Health Officer in Shanghai, wrote an article about Chinese hygiene, W. Hamilton Jefferys agreed with him that "as far as natural hygiene goes Chinese hygiene is in some important respects superior to that in both the large cities and in the country districts of Europe and America ... London, Philadelphia, Naples especially, and Italy in general.,,4 Jefferys added his own experience in Philadelphia of "finding [a] child in a garret room approached by a narrow ladder-like staircase, one of eight people in a room ten by twelve feet, two minute windows nailed down, so that neither of them could be opened ... The room crowded with old clothes, vermin and other live stock, stale food and urine standing, and the

air literally rotten."s A number of the correspondents who took issue with Stanley disagreed with his claim that prostitution and drunkenness was less prevalent than at home but no one challenged his opinion about Chinese hygiene.