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Queen's Hospital opens in temporary quarters

Concerned about foreign diseases that had decimated the Hawaiian population, Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma hoped to counter the trend by establishing a Western medicine hospital. In his first speech to the legislature, the king proposed a hospital "to stay the wasting hand that is destroying our population." The legislature authorized three hospitals but lacked any treasury funds for the projects. The king and queen took up fundraising themselves, gathering $13,000 the first week by soliciting subscriptions from friends and acquaintances and making substantial contributions themselves.

Once funding was secured, plans for the hospital quickly took shape. The king and his cabinet named the project "The Queen's Hospital" (Hale Ma'i O Ka Wahine Ali'i), crediting Emma with the original idea. They organized a Board of Trustees, officers and subscribers, and selected Dr. William Hillebrand as the hospital's physician. The hospital's charter stated its purpose to be the "reception, accommodation and treatment of indigent sick and disabled Hawaiians, as well as such foreigners and others who may choose to avail themselves of the same . . . ."

In August 1859, a temporary facility including a dispensary opened at the corner of Fort and King Streets. Dr. Hillebrand and his assistant treated patients in the 18-bed hospital but patients' family members and friends provided general nursing care. The first nurse wasn't hired until 1886.

In 1860, the site for a permanent hospital was selected where Queen's Medical Center currently stands. High chief Kapa'akea - father of David Kalakaua and Lili'uoklani - sold the land that was named Manamana ("much mana" or "branching") and the two-story structure that stood there to the hospital trustees. The building was renovated and opened that year as a 24-bed hospital. By December, a brand new hospital building was completed which provided 124 beds for patients.

When Emma died in 1885, she left the bulk of her estate in trust for the hospital. Today Queen's is a major health care provider, a state of the art teaching hospital with more than 1,300 doctors and 2,300 medical personnel on staff.

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