Historical overview

Ancient medicine in the Gulf region:

The population of the Arabian Peninsula relied on ancient medicine and old folk experiments in order to treat diseases and epidemics. This method of treatment carried on till late 19th century and early 20th century. Around the time when the British and American missionaries introduced the concept of modern medicine in medical practices and treatments.

Countries began to establish quarantine centers in the Gulf region in order to prevent the arrival of some epidemics from abroad. And it was then first immunization was introduced in the Gulf region against diseases and epidemics. A quarantine scan examined the arrivals on board ships and authorized them to enter the Gulf State, if proven safe. Thanks to the established quarantine by Turkish and British Governments. Doctors of the
American missionary expedition had a great impact in introducing the concept of modern medicine, surgery, anesthesia, preventive medicine and immunization medicine.
Which led to the construction of health centers in some Gulf cities.

Medicine in old Kuwait:

In the past, Kuwaitis used herbal and ironing methods as well as kohl, cupping and massage oils in order to treat diseases. This was before the introduction of modern medicine. In the beginning of the 20th century, When a British doctor was assigned to work in the House Dependence in 1904 and brought in physicians from the American missionary services in 1910 .Kuwait like most Gulf countries ,in the past, was exposed to diseases due to travelling to some countries and was named the foreign disease. Britain began to develop quarantine.
(Alkrentinat) and they were compulsory and were placed under their supervision until 1951 when it was handed over to the Kuwaiti government. The reason why it became mandatory to use the quarantine was that, previously, the Turks placed the quarantine in Kuwait and then sent an employee to work there in the year 1897 and lasted till 1907. The quarantine at the time wasn’t used frequently and most ships and travelers did not commit to using it.

Development of the first dispensary Kuwait: After the quarantine situation and securing the country from any disease, Health Care in Kuwait developed to create its first health clinic on October 30, 1904 and was based in Dar of dependence (Currently called: Dickson House and it is located opposite the sea coast) The work was supervised by an Indian doctor named David Rahman. The Clinic operated until one in the afternoon and all days of the week except Friday. During the first year 3976 patients were treated and 186 surgeries were performed, including 24 major surgeries such as the eradication of tumors and lymph glands and operations on hemorrhoids and certain eye operations.

First Hospital in Kuwait:

In 1912, the construction of the first hospital in Kuwait began, and it was considered the first building to be made of cement and iron. It was around that time when Sheikh Mubarak requested to open a hospital for Kuwaitis and improve medicine. The missionaries at that time had a great reputation in Basra, they sent a medical committee which consisted of: John Van S. and Arthur Bennet to negotiate with Sheikh Mubarak on a suitable location for the hospital. As a result of these negotiations, the missionaries got a land which was the basis for the medical center in Kuwait . Sheikh Mubarak insisted on building the hospital right away, during that time the American missionaries employed 3 doctors. The work was divided amongst them due to the lack of proper medical staff at the time. They were Dr. Bennet, Harrison and Millry. A clinic was created which consisted of 3 temporary rooms till the hospital opened in 1911.

Afterwards, the clinic closed and everything was transferred to the hospital. It consisted of one floor that had an operation room and six rooms on either side of the building. It was set up to serve men and women together, but missionary doctors soon realized the conservative nature of Kuwaiti culture and tradition. Which led to segregating medical practices?

With the arrival of Dr. Elenor Calverly on the 1st of January,1912 led to the rise of female medical practice. She worked in a Town Centre where she was assigned a house to treat women in. She successfully performed surgeries and obstructed birth treatments. And she would do patient visitations if their family requested it. This led to her popularity amongst Kuwaiti women.

In 1914, Sheikh Mubarak ordered the expansion of the hospital due to the advance of modern medicine as well as Kuwaitis’ acceptance of modern treatments and successful surgeries. The hospital gained a positive reputation for being a hub of modern medical technology and its reputation extended throughout the Arabian Gulf region.

Deputy Governor of India and the British base Connell Cree donated one thousand rupees for the construction of two additional rooms including doctor visitations to the surrounding areas to treat royal families, upon request from the governor of Kuwait.

In 1919, there was an increase in number of consultations for Gynecology which lead to creating the first women’s hospital beside the missionary’s hospital. It was a medium sized building that consisted of one floor, two wings and a surgery room as well as a nurses’ dormitory. The first nurse to stay in the hospital was an Indian nurse named Rvemona.

In 1927, the first civil pharmacy in Kuwait was called (the pharmacy Islamic charity) thanks to Abdullatif bin Ibrahim Aldhim who came up with the idea. The pharmacy sold drugs and medicine imported from India, Basra and Baghdad.

Public Health district witnessed a decade of 30 political and civil activities in Kuwait, in which during this time led to the formation of many departments, including the Department of Public Health, in 1936. In the Basic Law of the Legislative Council in 1938 and part of the second article that was provided, it stated as follows: Fifth: Health Act (meant by the age of health law protects the country and its people from the dangers of epidemics of various kinds) this department like any other governmental department in that period, an elected or particular council (consisting of twelve members) helps the workflow and management, and looks for public policy and assist its president and CEO in the departments affairs. The department is usually headed by a President from the royal family (In present times he is considered a minister) And he was responsible for more than one department. The manager of the department (deputy minister in our present time) had to be Kuwaiti,
specialized in administration and an expert who was able to handle affairs and was considered a direct manager for all matters concerning the department.

The Heads of the Health Department since its establishment until independence were: Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah (1936-1952), Sheikh Fahad Al-Salem Al-Sabah (1952-1959), Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah (1959- 1961) public Health Service managers of the foundation until independence were: Mr. / Mohammed Jassem Al-Mudhaf (1944- 1945), Mr. / Abdullah Private Labels (1945-1946), Mr. / Abdullah Abdulrahman Asousi (1946 - 1948) Mr. / Algrpley Yassin (1948 - 1949) Mr. / Nesf Yusuf Nesf (1949 - 1952) Mr. / Abdul Hamid manufacturer (1952) Mr. / on Dawid (1952-1959) Mr. / Abdul Rahman Al-Ateeqi (1959 - 1961) was the first regulation law for health work in 1944 in which where Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah issued a law that included fourteen articles that dealt with regulatory matters related to the Department for Health Health Council. In addition to the authorization of the Managing Director of the department and the authorization of the Technical Director (Head of doctors) of health department during that period. In 1939, the first governmental health clinic opened in Kuwait that later became restricted to men and another clinic for women was built and it was considered the first. In 1944,. Hikmat Alkhja was assigned by the department to take over the health of schoolchildren and public health in markets and examine traders and vendors of food. In 1947, Dr. Riyad Mukhtar Faraj was chosen to be the director of health knowledge, who planned plans for awareness campaigns and medical treatment of students as well as placing a clinic in every school. This was the starting point for the state of health in schools in Kuwait. Which was later called (School Health Department) in 1951.

The First Governmental Hospital in Kuwait:

The idea of a governmental hospital in Kuwait was a dream that locals always had even after the establishing the Department of Health and opening the first governmental clinic, officials soon realized the need for a governmental hospital that would cater to ongoing growth of the population as stated in Dr. Yahya Al-Hadidy’s report in 1940 to the Shura Council. Soon afterwards, it was approved to carry on with the plans of building the governmental hospital. And Dr. Yahya was given the task to overlook the building process.

Hamad Abdullah Al-Sager donated a land along with an area next to it in order to build the hospital. But the work was put on hold because of World War II. As soon as the war ended, they resumed building under the supervision of Khalifa Al-Bahar and Abdullah Al-Farhan.

On Tuesday, 18th October 1949 was the opening of the hospital under the patronage of the Amir of the country at the time, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and it was named the Amiri Hospital. The building had one floor that contained 45 beds in the beginning of its establishment, including wings, clinics, surgery room, lab and a pharmacy. As for the medical staff, it consisted of 13 male doctors, 1 female doctor as well as nurses. The hospital grew day after day due to the increase of the local population and patients. New wings were built in order to accommodate that.
In 1960, the number of beds reached 620.

From the book on the History of Health Services in Kuwait: From Origination Until Independence in 1996 by
Dr. Khaled Fahd Al-Jarallah