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Rare photographs record history of public hospitals

“Public Hospitals in Athens and Piraeus,» published by the Union of Athens and Piraeus Hospital Doctors (EINAP) for the union’s 30th anniversary, records highlights from the history of those hospitals over the past 150 years. Lavishly illustrated with photographs, this volume offers an historical retrospective from 1836, when the Army Hospital was established in Makriyianni and the civilian Elpis Hospital was founded, until 2002, when the Attiko Hospital opened for business in Haidari. «Our efforts were persistent and painstaking, because we encountered many obstacles of all kinds in collecting the material,» EINAP President Stathis Tsoukalos and secretary Haris Zacharoyiannis note in the introduction. «But we were so moved when we found old, yellowed and often semi-ruined photographs of Athenian hospitals and their staff that it made us forget the difficulties and overcome them.» Readers will be moved too, which will help them to forget any problems they may have faced in their dealings with state hospitals. We have made a random selection of important moments regarding some of the hospitals described in the book. – The foundation stone of Aghia Sofia Hospital was laid with great ceremony on October 16, 1896 and the inauguration took place on March 22, 1900. The hospital had a single nursing ward, the Syngros, with 16 beds. On April 1, 1900, the first sick child arrived for treatment. Among the landmarks in the hospital’s career was the year 1912, when it was commandeered to provide care for war wounded, and the Occupation, when the staff participated actively in the resistance. – Andreas Syngrou Hospital was initially called the Contagious Diseases Hospital and later the Venereal Diseases Hospital (1884-85). The hospital was transferred from one building to another until 1903, when the Petraki Monastery donated the land where it now stands. In 1910, it was considered the finest of its kind in the world. – The first civilian hospital in Athens was the Elpis, originally located on Academias Street, in the building that now houses the Athens Municipality Cultural Center. During its long history, the Elpis has treated the wounded from the Balkan Wars, aided refugees who came to live in Athens, and served the people of Athens in the famine during the Occupation and the victims of conflict in the December uprising and the civil war. – On March 25, 1881, the foundation stone of Evangelismos Hospital was laid and on April 16, 1884, the first patient, a child of 10, was admitted to the surgery clinic. The child stayed in the hospital for 17 days and was discharged, cured. At that time, the hospital had two wards and 48 beds. Now Evangelismos is one of the National Health System’s flagships, offering practically all medical specialities, with a capacity of 944 beds. – The Athens Opthalmiatreio is one of the oldest hospitals in Greece and one of the first eye clinics in the world. It was officially opened on June 14, 1854. The album includes an excerpt from the clinic’s fourth annual report describing the public’s reaction to the clinic. It mentions the «indescribable amazement of these hapless patients who had often traveled for many days because they had heard that there was a hospital in Athens where the blind were treated for free.» The clinic now boasts one of the oldest libraries in Greece and a unique museum of ophthalmological equipment and instruments. As the introduction to the book notes: «All, or nearly all, the hospitals were designed according to the standards of a different era and to meet different needs, for a much smaller population than the present one and by a weak state. If they still fulfill their role, at least in part, it is due to the particular efforts made by their staff. Contemporary cultural and medical needs have changed a great deal. Athens and Piraeus already need new hospitals and luckily our country is able to provide them.»