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The Work of the Ships' Surgeon on a Steamship (1900)

The duties of a ship surgeon while at sea are a combination of those of a doctor and a sanitary inspector As a health officer he must visit every part of the ship , to see that everything is clean; disinfect, if that is necessary; watch the food that is prepared for the crew, the steerage and cabin passengers. All the steerage passengers pass before the ship surgeon as they go on board. If there is any just cause why they should not be taken, they are sent back.

The actual salary paid by the company may be assumed to be between $40 a month and $40 a week. The law prohibits a ship surgeon from making out a bill or from making any specific price for his services. He is supposed to be, there for the purpose of serving the passengers.

In fact, he must attend the call of everybody on board, even the meanest. Neglect of the steerage passengers charged against a surgeon of the ship, if the complaint were sent in to the company properly, would certainly be investigated, and if it should be sustained the doctor would be dismissed.

When he has done his full duty in the steerage, there is no law against his being very kind and thoughtful and attentive to Mr. and Mrs. Millionaire in the first cabin; nor is there the slightest objection on the part of the company if Mr. Millionaire shows his substantial appreciation of the doctor's skill and gentlemanly conduct. Nor is this substantial recognition by any means confined to the first cabin.

It is quite universal in the second cabin, with a sporadic case here and there in the steerage. First and second cabin passengers prefer to be on a higher plane in this respect than the average steerage passenger, and usually consider remuneration of the ship surgeon according to the value of his services only his just due. No doctor on land has in a social point of view, patients who represent so many grades of society as those who come under the care of the ship surgeon.

John Colgate Hoyt, Compiler, "The Ship Surgeon." In Old Ocean's Ferry: The Log of the Modern Mariner, The Trans-Atlantic Traveler, and Quaint Facts of Neptune's Realm. A Collation of Odd and Useful Information for Nautical Travel and Strange Features of the Sea, for Landsman and Mariner, New York: Bonnell, Silver & Co., 1900, Page 124

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