Once a bold and unusual combination of health care and recreation housed on a boat, New York's Floating Hospital now pursues its mission of treating the poor through two landlocked health centers.

TBT_FloatingHospitalEven though the floating hospital aspect of the Floating Hospital was discontinued by safety concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001, this year marks the 150th anniversary of when New York residents conceived of the idea of organizing a summer cruise for underprivileged children. That cruise would lead to a permanent health care program and eventually become Floating Hospital (pictured above in 1980).

Volunteer physicians and nurses first set sail with 560 children in 1872, wrote the late Emily Friedman in a June 1980 edition of Hospitals magazine, now known as H&HN. During the 1950’s, staff aboard the ship were noticing generations of families continually seeking care, and decided to shift their focus to prevention as well as treatment, wrote Friedman.TBT_FloatingHospital2

By 1980, the ship offered a few unique services. Dancing, exercising, music and singing took place in the “Body Shop” and a health-oriented series, “As the Boat Floats” provided opportunities for ongoing discussion of problems and other topics within a do-it-yourself soap opera format. The Children’s Theater put on plays such as Checking Out the Inside (a lesson in anatomy potentially sponsored by Adidas) and Sunshine (promoting environmental awareness), according to Hospitals.

But after 9/11, the city of New York declared a state of emergency and the Floating Hospital moved to dry Brooklyn land. And in 2009, the first Floating Hospital Community Health Center welcomed patients.

A variety of services are offered, including general medical services such as immunizations, gynecological exams and treatment for chronic health issues. Dental services and mental health services are also offered to residents around the city.

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Today, the care centers handle 61,000 patient visits a year, and also provides needed transportation, making 100 trips a day to New York City’s five boroughs.