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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

30                      THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                CHAP.
resting on iron trestles, so that the patients often preferred to sleep in the corridors at night to try and escape from the vermin. There was practically no furniture except dirty tin drinking pots and platters. At night there were no candles available, and the corridors were dimly lighted by a narrow wick floating in oil. But the pervading horror of the hospital was the smell from the privies, which w*ere built into the walls, and communicated directly with huge underground culverts, blocked at low Nile, and at other times allowed to empty themselves into the river. The so-called drains from the dissecting room and dead-house also flowed into the Nile about a mile above the intake of the water supply of the city. Water was somewhat scarce in those days, and was brought upstairs by men carrying goatskins from a tap near the entrance of the hospital. The filtered water supply was unknown. ... In the middle of the kitchen there was an open hole in the floor, leading into a cesspool, for the reception of olfal and bones. . . . The laundry was in the open air, supplied with muddy, cold water, and a series of boilers in which the water never boiled. It was, therefore, not to be wondered at that linen often came back to the wards covered with lice. Perhaps it is not surprising that hardly any single soul ever went to the hospital of his own free will, the exception being beggars who were driven there by poverty. The public of Cairo firmly believed that the hospital was merely a prelude to the cemetery, and that the sick were beaten and robbed by the attendants, and then poisoned by the doctors. And yet the number of hospital patients was often four hundred, made up of soldiers, policemen, Government employes, prisoners, foundlings, hospital children, idiots, and prostitutes, who sometimes numbered as many as two hundred, and converted their section into a pandemonium. All these different classes were kept there by order of the Governor. . . . There was no nursing, the attendants consisting entirely of worn-out old soldiers, who had been dismissed from the army, with, of course, no moral control over the patients. Serious cases could not be kept in bed, and trivial cases were allowed to lie in bed all day if they wished it. There was a systematic absence of clinical teaching, note-taking, temperature records, urine testing, or any thorough physical examination. The medical diagnosis seldom advanced beyond ' anaemia' or * gastric catarrh.' The dispenser accompanied the doctor on his round, wrote the prescriptions on a. sheet of paper, copied them afterwards into a book, and then administered the medicine of twenty-four hours all in one dose. Theheir articulate