Hospitals

There are various types of hospitals, but all are places in which people whoneed medical treatment are looked after and cared for.

The Hindus built the first known hospitals during the 5th century BC in whatis now known as Sri Lanka. Hospitals didn't reach the western hemisphere until about 1500, however. when the first institution dedicated to medical care was constructed on the island of Hispaniola. Soon after, a hospital was erected in Mexico City, where it stands today.

The first hospital in the United States was called the Pennsylvania Hospital,built in Philadelphia in 1751. Today there are more than 6,600 hospitals throughout the United States available to people who require medical care. Thosethat treat a wide variety of minor and serious illnesses are called generalhospitals. If the facility cares for those living around it, it is referred to as a community hospital.

Larger, more sophisticated hospitals which specialize in very serious or hard-to-treat illnesses by providing state-of-the-art medical care are known as "medical centers." Most provide tertiary (referral-based) care and are linkedto medical schools. They may be known for a particular type of treatment, such as burn care, emergency medicine, open heart surgery or organ transplants.These university- or medical school-affiliated medical centers provide valuable teaching experiences for their students. These institutions are also knownas "teaching hospitals."

In addition, there are a number of specialty hospitals including comprehensive cancer centers, children's hospitals, maternity hospitals, geriatric hospitals for the aged, and veterans hospitals (for members of the armed forces).

Most hospitals are designed to treat patients only for short periods of time,and most must follow health insurance guidelines limiting the numberof days a patient can stay in the hospital. However, some hospitals deal withmore chronic problems where patients with ongoing health problems are caredfor.

Hospitals are regularly inspected by a national group known as the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to assure they meet basic requirements of good medical care. In order to work in hospitals, doctors must apply for "hospital privileges" which allows them to admit their patients to that hospital.

Most hospitals in the United States are non-profit institutions. Those that are run with the intention of making a profit are called proprietary facilities. About a fourth of American hospitals are operated by a government agency,such as the Veterans Administration, or a city or state. Other hospitals areadministered by religious groups.

No matter what type of hospital it may be, most are separated into departments in which certain kinds of medical services are available. Major departmentsin most hospitals include nursing, surgery, anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, emergency department, radiology, nutrition and physical therapy.

Some larger hospitals contain specialized medical departments, such as pathology (where diseases are diagnosed and cause of death determined), dermatology, cardiology, neurology, and psychiatry.

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