Miss Nightingale's Opinion on the Ward's Island Hospital, New York

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (17) start of chapter

Removed, by its insular position, from all contact with the city, its shores washed by the ever-moving tide of the Sound, lies Ward's Island, 110 acres of which are now in possession of the Commissioners, and devoted to the varied purposes of the institution. The stranger is astonished at beholding the splendid groups of buildings that, as it were, crown the island—asylums, refuges, schools, hospitals; the latter for surgical, medical, and contagious cases. These buildings were capable last year of accommodating more than 1,500 persons, and they are added to according to the means at the disposal of the Commission. On the 10th of August, 1864, was laid the foundation stone of an hospital with accommodation for 500 patients; which hospital, designed and furnished with all the latest improvements, is admitted by competent judges—including Miss Nightingale (11)—to be one of the most complete in the world. I visited this hospital in March, 1867, and though not qualified to pronounce an opinion which would be of any practical value, I cannot refrain from expressing the admiration with which I beheld so noble an institution, equal in every respect to the best I had seen in London, Rome, Paris, or Vienna; and, from its peculiar position, especially its entire isolation from other buildings, and being erected on an island, more favourable to the treatment and recovery of the patient than any hospital in a great city. The Commissioners have been careful to provide an unlimited supply of the pure Croton for the inmates of the different establishments under their charge; and to another essential requisite of health—a thorough system of drainage and sewerage—they have devoted considerable attention. The result is a low rate of mortality in hospital and asylum, among infants and adults; which contrasts most favourably with institutions of a similar nature, but not enjoying the special advantages that distinguish those of Ward's Island. The staff, surgical and medical, is equal to the necessity, and consists of men eminent in their different branches of the healing art.

It may be interesting to contrast the number of persons, patients or inmates, at Ward's Island on the 30th of June, 1867, with the number at the corresponding periods of the three previous years. It proves two things—the increased demand on the resources of the institution; also the difficulty of procuring employment, arising not only from the continued overcrowding of New York, but from the inability of these emigrants to push on to the West. The total number of inmates in 1864, while the war was raging, was 1,000. In 1865 it fell to 851. But since then the number has been seriously added to. In 1866 it was 1,251, and on the 30th of June, 1867, it rose to 1,428. The number of able-bodied working men on the island, at a time when the best chances of employment are offered to those inclined to work, is still more significant. In 1864 the number was 42; in 1865 it fell to 34; in 1866 it rose to 100; and in 1867 it was as high as 123. The sick average at least 600, the balance consisting of women and children.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

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