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Buenos Aires Hours | The British hospital remains a mainstay of the local community, 175 years later

Smells swirl in the air along Perdriel Street, where through the low wrought-iron fence and greenery, the white stucco walls of the British Hospital peek in.

Occupying an entire city block in Barracas, the hospital boasts of longevity in what it also claims in pioneering medical care and complex medicine. The Hospital Británico, as most locals call it, is a ubiquitous feature of this Buenos Aires neighborhood – this year it celebrates the 175th anniversary of its founding.

An institution almost as old as Argentina itself, the British Hospital was founded in 1844 as a non-profit institution. It was the first health center to be founded and created by an immigrant community in Argentina, later accompanied by sister centers such as German, Italian and French hospitals.

“There were about 20 hospitals. There were no medicines, in the whole country there was no kind of medical care, and therefore each community organized its own, ”explained Managing Director Dr Angel J. Yebara in an interview with the Times Last year.

In one of the hospital’s conference rooms, a portrait of Reverend Barton Lodge hangs on the wall alongside other black and white photos of nurses who have come before. Matron Verónica Hortis de Smith, Director of Nursing, looks at her fondly as she recalls the history of nursing school.

“Reverend Barton Lodge was the first to take note and began by forming a commission. He said that we needed a health center to be able to take care of all these Englishmen who came to work in the railways, in the meat packing factories, in the field, ”she explains.

In 1890, the British Hospital became the seat of Argentina’s first nursing school, the Enclosure, which was founded by Isabel Eames, a graduate of The Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses at King’s College London. Today, the vast majority of nurses and patients are Spanish speaking, although many are bilingual.

Moved and influenced by the work of Florence Nightingale, famous during the Crimean War, doing at St. Thomas Hospital in London, the first nurses who arrived in Buenos Aires came because the community needed doctors and doctors. nurses who spoke English, since their patients spoke almost exclusively English. At the time, the British community numbered nearly 8,000 people.


Today, the hospital employs around 800 doctors, 500 nurses, 400 in outpatient departments and has a private health plan covering 40,000 lives in Argentina.

Ask one of its more than 3,000 employees and they will speak passionately about the unique culture that finds its place within the hospital.

Noelia Zamparutti, director of communications, fundraising and institutional relations, describes the hospital as a place where “British formality and this multi-dynamism that Argentines have” meet, and CEO Yebara echoes to those feelings.

“With 3,000 people it’s difficult, but here everyone paints the ‘H’ and ‘B’ on their skin and everyone has a feeling of shared love for the hospital,” Yebara said. . “People recognize the quality of attention and its humanity. We are known for it. The walls here, they exude tranquility, quality, affection.

The hospital’s fusion of Argentinian and British cultures is physically represented by a recessed metal rose perched beneath plaques listing the directors of the hospital since its inception. The rose, part of the Argentinian silversmith Juan Carlos Pallarols “Dos rosas for peaceIs made from bullet shells collected during the Malvinas / Falklands conflict. For every rose made and offered or auctioned in Argentina, the same is true in the UK.

On the same wall as the rose, a sign above the main elevators features the names of all hospital directors over the years.

“All the directors are descendants of the British community, and it’s been a few years since that started to change,” Zamparutti remarks.

Despite its origins in the Anglo-Argentinian community, the hospital has no financial or government ties with the UK.


In addition to the celebrations marking the 175th anniversary of the community institution, the hospital also faces significant challenges.

For example, of the current 180,000 nurses in Argentina, 50,000 are expected to retire within the next three years. At a press conference in 2016, President Mauricio Macri unveiled a four-year initiative to increase the number of nurses in the medical field, saying his administration understood both the urgency and the scale of the situation.

“The country has a shortage of nurses in quantity and quality,” then Health Minister Jorge Lemus said, noting that “the doctor-nurse ratio is now on average one to one and in some five-to-one provinces, the exact opposite of what we need. “

Considering the shortage of nurses not only in Argentina, but around the world, the British Hospital has placed a high priority on the economic support of its school, which trains nurses free of charge to highly recognized professional standards.

Indeed, training is a key part of the hospital’s role in the medical community in Argentina.

The British Hospital is a teaching hospital affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), and more recently with the Faculty of Medicine of the Pontificia Universidad Católica in 2009. Currently, 350 students are enrolled in the school nurses, as well as the 200 residents and 55 fellows.

“Here we breathe the academic world. We breathe education. We have a high level of expectation, ”Yebara said. “These three pillars – helping people, teaching and research – make the quality of our medical care extremely high. “

“With the heritage of caring for people in the British community, our mission is one of community. Everything we do comes back, and we try to make sure it doesn’t just come back to our growth, but that it can be seen in our community, ”said Ralph Kirby, President of the British Hospital from 2013 to 2018, Times.

“Surviving 175 years is almost impossible. It’s very rare, ”says Kirby.

“The economic ups and downs in Argentina have been dramatic, yet the hospital has never quit smoking.”

A page from the history books

The British Hospital appears to have been in Perdriel forever, but in fact its presence in Barracas dates back to 1885 while the current building was opened in 1940, following a massive pre-war fundraiser by the British community. The cornerstone of the major extensions was laid by Prince Charles in 1999. It was one of half a dozen royal visits since the famous trip of the future Edward VIII as Prince of Wales in 1925 (the Duke of Edinburgh has been to Perdriel twice) and the institution has been under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II since her coronation in 1953.

Until about a century ago, almost all doctors and surgeons came from Britain with a few local recruits from the British community, but everyone was English speaking. It took a century of existence before the hospital began accepting doctors who had graduated from Argentine universities.

Dr John Emery (a beacon of the recent past with half a century of hospital service, ending in 2014) has compiled a long list of early British hospital pioneers since the first use of anesthesia (ether ) in surgery in this country by Dr John Mackenna in 1847 and including the first bone marrow transplant in Argentina in 1980,0

The hospital has had an academic dimension since 1994 when it offered training to students of the Faculty of Medicine of the UBA University of Buenos Aires while in 2010, the Catholic University (UCA) chose the institution for the clinical and surgical training of the students of its recently inaugurated medical center. school.

Nursing school dates back to the 19th century of course with remarkable continuity – only 11 matrons in almost 130 years, including three decades for Doreen Dover (1971-2000). Verónica Hortis de Smith has been in charge since 2004. Students go through a three-year training course with good expectations to join the staff after graduation. Last year, a record 60 nurses graduated and 324 current students.

The British Hospital has modernized considerably during this century thanks to extremely vigorous fundraising. A completely renovated pediatric ward (as well as a modernized pediatric intensive care unit) and a state-of-the-art cancer center are among the main beneficiaries, but not the only ones. The total workforce is between 2,500 and 3,000, with just over 1,700 full-time employees, around 600 paying physicians and various auxiliaries.

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