THE, ASFURIYEH HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE
On the 17th of April, 1896 , it was my privilege to invite a number of foreign and Syrian residents of Beirut to meet in my study, to hear from Theophilus Waldmeier a statement of his plan to found a hospital for the insane in Syria. As a result ten of those present consented to act as an executive committee. Rev. John Wortabet, M. D., was elected president, H. H. Jessup secretary, Charles Smith, Esq., treasurer, and the other members were Theophilus Waldmeier, founder and business superintendent, Messrs. Shoucair and Khirullah, Syrians, Drs. Brigstocke and Graham, English, Dr. W. T. Van Dyck, American, and Pastor Otto Fritze, German.
Mr. Waldmeier was then authorized to visit Europe, Great Britain, and the United States, to interest the public and to raise funds to buy land and erect buildings. A native of Germany, yet resident in the East for thirty-eight years and of large experience in buying the site and erecting the four large edifices of the Friends' Mission in Brummana, Mount Lebanon, speaking German, English, French, and Arabic, and fully consecrated to devote the remaining years of his life to the relief of the mentally affected as a service to Christ and humanity, he was admirably qualified for the laborious task, and succeeded well. He formed auxiliary committees in Switzerland, Holland, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States, and raised about ten thousand dollars. A central committee was formed in London composed of such men as Sir Richard Tangye, Dr. F. A. Elkins, Dr. R. Fortescue Fox, Dr. R. Percy Smith, Dr. David Yellowlees, Dr. A. T. Schofield, Dr. Bedford Pierce, Rev. J. Guinness Rogers, D. D., and Dr. R. Hingston Fox, and others, and a board of trustees was formed consisting of Wm. A. Albright and Joel Cadbury of Birmingham and Rev. C. A. Webster, M. D., and Rev. H. H. Jessup, D. D., of Beirut.
Mr. Waldmeier returned to Syria in 1897, and after long searching and many journeys by sub-committees, we finally selected as the best site the place known as El Asfuriyeh, a beautiful elevation on one of the lower spurs of Lebanon, forty-five minutes from Beirut, yet under the Christian government of Lebanon, 400 feet above sea-level, with an abundant supply of pure spring water, a large tract of land, three stone buildings, fine quarries of indurated cretaceous limestone for building, a fertile soil, and a most salubrious, cheerful, and attractive site.
We purchased it from Hishmet Beg, a courteous and high minded Turkish gentleman, long known as the upright treasurer of the Lebanon government, for about $9,000, and experience has proved that it was a most economical purchase. There are now thirty-four acres of land.
Nine years have passed. Twelve stone buildings have been erected - the administration building (enlarged), the men's ward, and isolating ward, the Holland kitchen, Dr. Thwaites' house, the house of Mr. Baumkamp, head nurse, the chapel, the clinic, the porter's lodge, the wash-house, and the tenant farmer's house. In addition to a perennial flowing spring of pure water, it has several rain-water cisterns.
More than 600 patients have received treatment, of whom more that thirty-three per cent. have been discharged cured. The average number treated annually is 155. This being the only organized hospital for the insane in Syria, patients come from Syria' Palestine, Egypt, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Malta, Persia, India, and foreigners from Russia, Italy, Germany and Austria. They represent ten of the religious sects of the land. Mohammedans, Maronites, Jews, Orthodox Greeks, Druses, Papal Greeks, Metawilehs, Armenians, Roman Catholics, and Protestants.
The work is international and undenominational, and appeals to the liberal in all lands and of all forms of religious faith. Unlike insane hospitals in civilized lands, it has no state aid and depends upon voluntary contributions.
When we were planning for its organization in 1896-1897, Dr. Cornelius Van Dyck said that "we need not expect the people to pay for the cure of their insane," but the facts prove that they will and do pay.
In 1900 received from patients 156 pounds
" 1901 " " " 589
" 1902 " " " 651
1903 " " " 729
1904 " " " 859
1905 " " " 1,113
1906 " " " 1,003
1907 " " " 11003.13
1908 " " " 1,125
This is a remarkable result. Yet there are on an average thirty poor patients, unable to pay, who add largely to the deficit in the annual income.
As the expenses of the hospital amount to about $10,000 a year, about $5,000 must come from outside donations, and an endowment is needed which would net the amount per annum.
Under the business superintendence of Mr. Waldmeier, and the medical care of Dr. Thwaites, just succeeded by Dr. Watson Smith, with the aid of Mr. Baumkamp and Miss Ashley, with a corps of native male and female nurses, the institution is well equipped. Before this hospital was opened, the treatment of the insane was cruel beyond belief. They were beaten, chained, confined in damp, dark dungeons, or given over to priests who professed to exorcise the demons by cruel torture in the dark cavern of the Convent of Kozheiya in Northern Lebanon. Some are cauterized in the head with red-hot irons. One priest in Brummana had an insane woman bound to a stone pillar head downward, read his formula for exorcism, fumigating her with incense until she began to curse him, when he beat her on the face with his large silver cross until the blood streamed down upon it.
When she was released and had recovered her strength she ran six miles down the mountain to the sea and drowned herself.
In contrast the people say, "This hospital is the crown of goodness and mercy." A native writer declares the buildings, in their neatness and cleanliness, to be more like palaces than insane hospital wards. Dr. A. T. Schofield of London who visited Asfuriyeh declared it to be "a model institution."
Dr. Mauser, director of the large Heldburghausen Asylum in Germany, in 1906 wrote, "I am astonished to find such an excellent asylum in this country: the houses are well built with free admission of light and fresh air, clean, comfortable, and substantial, and what pleases me above all is the absence of the undesirable walls, which even till now surround some of our asylums in Europe. The 'bed treatment' of the maniacal and excited patients is much better than the strong 'jackets.'"
"The hospital now stands," as Mr. Waldmeier says in the report, March, 1907, "as a beautiful object-lesson before us, in which a loving, Christian, humane treatment of the patients, combined with modern alienistic science, can be observed. Iron chains have to give way to freedom, atrocities and cruelties to Christian love and kindness, exorcism to sound reason, filthy and dangerous to clean and airy rooms, and ignorance to the light of the Gospel and civilization."
This work, though not under a missionary board, is a child of missions, and under the management of Christian men. I regard the time and strength I have given to it as secretary for ten years, as work done for Christ and His suffering ones, and in this respect it is Christian missionary work.