The Marine Hospital at Berck-Surmer, Principally for Crippled Children; The Largest Institution of Its Type in the World
Boston Medical and Surgical Journal
Situated on the seashore of France at Bercksur-Mer there is located the largest marine hospital in the world, an institution accommodating well over 1,000 patients. In many respects, and especially as regards its facilities for out-of-door treatment, the hospital is an establishment of great interest. Though not specifically stated, the hospital is orthopedic in character and devoted largely to the treatment of the crippled children of Paris. Other cases of a medical or convalescent type are
... lescent type are taken, but patients suffering from surgical tuberculosis are in the great majority. The hospital was originally intended for scrofulous children when it was opened on July 8, 1862, with a capacity for 100 patients. It is probable that chance had a great deal to do with the choice of Berck for the site but it would be Marine Hospital, Berck-sur-Mer. View from Beach. difficult to find a better location along the English Channel. Situated at .40 west longitude and 50.20 north latitude, the hospital is flanked by a stretch of beach fourteen miles long and, at highest tide, about a mile wide. This beach is of clear sand, free from pebbles or rocks. It taces due west and is protected from the cold north and east winds and is not affected by the southwest storm. In this latitude the temperature at sea-level is never very high and even in the extremes of winter never goes below 17°Fahrenheit and during most winters stays between 23°and 25°. The sand beyond the high-water mark is never frozen to a greater depth than two inches, and, according to the hospital authorities, this explains how the children are able to live in the open air and on the beach throughout the greater part of the winter. There are no salt marshes in the vicinity. The sands are not shifting and every receding tide leaves a number of pools where the children can paddle and bathe in still water that often reaches a temperature of 77°Fahrenheit. In 1867 there was started in a plot of 87 acres a new hospital with a capacity of 700 beds. The first small hospital had been located about ten feet above high tide (about 25 feet above average tide) but eight years' experience had shown that this was too low and the new hospital was built on a level six and a half feet higher. A balcony was built around the building, wings and court, providing a covered walk for the children a third of a mile in length. There were fourteen dormitories of thirty-six beds apiece, each bed being allotted 1400 cubic feet of air. Five infirmaries, each containing sixteen beds, had the same cubic allowance of air. Two gymnasia were built in the playgrounds for use in winter and bath-houses for use in summer. A large swimming pool was built in the hospital so that sea bathing might be continued during the cold season. In addition there were tubs for warm baths, fresh and salt, a hydrotherapy room, Turkish baths, and bathrooms for the employees. The cost of construction amounted to about $625,000. In 1872 another addition, the "Rothschild Hospital," was built. Little by little the hospital originally designed for scrofulous and rachitic children, lost its original character and by 1901 became more of an active orthopedic hospital. The facilities were not entirely adequate for this type of work and between 1905 and 1910 there were erected additional buildings which increased the capacity by 300 beds. In 1909 an isolation building was constructed. Each year during the early part of August vacation clinics are held, which are attended by large numbers of French and foreign physicians who are interested in the seaside treatment.