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1951 - Today

WORLD WAR I

(1917 - 1918)

Organization of hospital services was one of the strong recommendations made to every nation by the Geneva Convention of 1863. The American Red Cross was an outgrowth of that convention. The great suffering of the sick and wounded in our Civil War and even the brief Spanish-American War had demonstrated the dire need of better organized medical services in future U. S. emergencies.

Pennsylvania Hospital was in the forefront of the first hospital service units established under the aegis of the Red Cross Base Hospitals. Although the United States was not yet into the "Great War," the resulting plan to mobilize personnel from some of the city's hospitals drew an immediate and positive response from Pennsylvania Hospital Board members. The Pennsylvania Hospital Base Hospital Unit No. 10 was born and nurtured by a $25,000 donation for equipment from the Pennsylvania Committee for National Preparedness.

The United States declared war on Germany on April 16, 1917. One month later, Pennsylvania Hospital director of nurses Margaret A. Dunlop, who organized the nursing component of the unit, was given five days to assemble her Pennsylvania Hospital graduates and a smaller number of nurse volunteers from other Philadelphia hospitals.

Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10 personnel sailed from New York on May 10 to Le Treport, France. They discovered that the 500-bed facility they expected was in fact a 2,000-bed facility. Later additions were made to the staff but the original unit of 24 doctors, two dental surgeons, 64 nurses and 157 enlisted men faced an immediate and incredible task.

In more than 18 months of service in France, Pennsylvania Base Hospital No. 10 treated over 48,000 patients. Of this number, 23,238 were wounded; 24,573 were ill. Mortality was remarkably low with only 538 deaths. Most of the sick and injured were part of the British Expeditionary Force but there were also 3,000 Americans. At the end of their service, the directors of the units who staffed Base Hospital No. 10 received the Royal Red Cross.

At home, the hospital staff was at about half-strength. Its ability to care for civilians was limited by the large number of convalescing U. S. sailors filling the wards. In October, 1918, the world-wide influenza epidemic struck the hospital. The already depleted nursing staff was hit hard -- 52 nurses became ill and four died.

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