(Latin: hospes, guest)

An institution for the care of the sick. Today they are highly specialized centers, not merely for nursing of patients, but for all sorts of preventive medical care of individuals and of society. Disease is no longer viewed as an individual affliction, but as a menace to the community, and as a cause of economic loss and caste. Hence the extended service given by hospitals, in outpatient departments, dispensaries and clinics for the poor, and medical social service. For this reason also, in theory and practise, the state is assuming the responsibility, to an ever larger degree, for the prevention and cure of disease. Hospitals are intimately connected with the history of Christian charity. The first public hospital was founded in the 4th century by the pious Roman lady, Fabiola. Others were founded about the same time by Saint Pammachus and Saint Basil. The latter institution at Caesarea, had a section for lepers, and was perhaps the first asylum provided for these unfortunate sufferers. The monasteries and religious bodies adopted the care of the sick and lepers as a common feature of their work. The oldest hospital in existence is the Hotel-Dieu, founded under religious auspices in Paris, c.660. At the time of the Reformation, there were some 460 foundations for the care of the sick and the destitute in England alone. Today there are many religious orders for work in hospitals and among the sick, and such sisterhoods have won love and veneration in communities otherwise hostile to the Church. Catholic charity is given to hospital work, not merely because of the service afforded the body, but also because in so many eases souls are won from sin and sped in safety from earth to heaven.

New Catholic Dictionary

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