About 15 percent of the people in North America spend some time as hospital patients each year, while millions of other people visit hospitals as outpatients. About 7,000 hospitals can be found in the United States today with abou 1.6 million beds. In Canada there are about 210,000 hospital beds in some 1,500 hospitals. Most of the hospitals have fewer than 200 beds.
A hospital is a place that provides medical services for a community. Doctors and nurses work in hospitals to restore health to injured and sick people.
First Canadian hospital opened in 1639 in Quebec. The first one in what is now the United States was started in New Amsterdam, now New York City, in 1658.
The first incorporated hospital in the United States was the Pennsylvania Hospital, established with the support of Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia. Still in existence today, this institution received its charter in 1751.
Unfortunately, too many of the early hospitals were dark, crowded and dirty. If a person could afford it, he would make sure that he received his medical attention at home.
By the late 1800s doctors began to observe the principle of cleanliness to reduce infections, and surgery became much safer than it had been. Then started the continuing trend of caring for patients in hospitals instead of at home. Hospitals acquired new equipment.
Also in the late 1800s nursing schools were established, and the quality of hospital care improved greatly. The idea that hospitals were only for the poor disappeared.