- Winter 2017
|Khastakhanat Al Khurabah, "the hospital for strangers,"
was the first general hospital in Baghdad.
In 1872, Midhat Pasha ,the governor of Baghdad, noticed the high prevalence of disease among the city’s population as well as the abuse of patients by conjurers, quibblers and equivocators. He built the first hospital in the city on the Al kargh side of the river Tigris, which divides the capital Baghdad into two halves. As the government budget was insufficient to build such institution, he called on the public to help by donating money, gold, and other expensive items. The people responded overwhelmingly, especially the rich.
Though called a hospital, it functioned largely as a residential home. The hospital itself consisted of fifty beds with departments of medicine, surgery, and venereal diseases.
It was managed by the municipality of Baghdad, and treatment was free.
It seems that the hospital was not attractive to the local private doctors, nor to the people, who preferred be treated in their homes, often by traditional healers rather than go to government health institutions. Hence it was named Khastakhanat Al Khurabah, meaning “the hospital for strangers.” It was mainly used by strangers, travelers, beggars, and people who had no relatives to care for them; and it faced financial difficulties as well as lacking medical and managerial staff, leading to it being closed and reopened several times.
After the death of Mihat Basha in 1869, the building began to deteriorate. Cracks appeared in the walls and the roof was weakening. Accordingly the building was abandoned until 1879, when Abd Rahman Basha, the new governor, had it refurbished and supplied with medical equipments and drugs. In a widely attended ceremony, the hospital was re-opened in April of that year, but it functioned only until 1891, when it was totally abandoned by the government and its contents moved to a new hospital built by governor Namiq Pasha on the Al Rasafa side of the Tigris.
HUSSAIN AL-SARDAR, MBCHB, DM, MD, MRCPI, MRCP(UK), FRCPI, FRCP(London), FACP, FEFIM, was born in Iraq and graduated from Mosul Medical College/University of Mosul/Ninevah/Iraq. He was practicing as a consultant physician and senior lecturer at Mosul University Teaching hospital until 1994 when he immigrated to the UK.