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The history of the Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù dates back 150 years, but its activities are cast in the future.
The Ospedale Bambino Gesù is the leading children's hospital in Italy. It was founded in the second half of the 19th century thanks to the generosity of the Salviati family.
In the year 1869 in Rome, like the rest of Italy, young patients were often hospitalized, without special regard, in the same wards as adults.
Duchess Arabella Salviati, deeply moved by the sight, began to advocate for the foundation of a children's hospital modeled after the Hopital des Enfants Malades in Paris. Her project was immediately supported by Duke Scipione and his children who, to celebrate his birthday, gave him the savings they kept in a little moneybox which has been preserved in memory of their sign of solidarity. On 19 March, a small room in via delle Zoccolette, near the Tiber River, was the first hospital unit designated for the Bambino Gesù. There were only four beds, and it was entrusted to the steadfast supervision of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The City of Rome recognized it as a true revolutionary deed: a concrete acknowledgement of the need for medical care, primarily for poorer children.
Friends and benefactors immediately declared their support for the Dukes of Salviati and made donations to the hospital, which helped its rapid development.
Soon, the original location became too small to meet the needs of the recently declared Capital of Italy and so, in 1887, pursuant to a Municipal Committee resolution, Duchess Salviati was entrusted with part of the Sant'Onofrio Convent on the Janiculum Hill where the hospital was transferred. From the early 1900s the hospital had already become the point of reference for young patients in the city and by 1907, following the construction of two new pavilions, over a thousand children had been treated.
In 1917, the First World War had not ended yet: the Queen of Italy Elena of Montenegro and her husband the king had visited the Bambino Gesù many times, and so the Queen entrusted Duchess Maria Salviati with the management of the Santa Marinella community where children affected primarily with bone tuberculosis were taken in. The facility was later permanently donated to Duchess Salviati in 1921 and was established as a place "for poor children from the Janiculum who need seaside, marine, treatments."
The Salviati's primary concern, however, was to guarantee a stable future for the facility and so in January 1924, the family donated the hospital to Pope Pius XI.
From that moment on, all the popes that have succeeded Peter have promoted the services rendered by the hospital to provide healthcare for children, and so the Romans refer to the Bambino Gesù as "The Pope's Hospital".
The new ownership refueled the facility and it continued to develop and grow, thanks also to the unfailing donations made by private patrons.
Unfortunately, the Second World War left deep wounds and the hospital was faced with a slow recovery both financially and structurally. Financial assistance from the American episcopacy at the beginning of the 1960s accelerated this process, and new and larger facilities were built. The Bambino Gesù was prepared to accommodate young patients who had begun to arrive in large numbers also from other parts of Italy.
With a view to further expand the hospital, in 1978 Pope Paul VI entrusted Bambino Gesù with a large area on the sea coast a few kilometers from Rome on the via Aurelia, which included three pavilions that were already being used for treating children with polio and spastic paralysis. Not long after, the facility was redeveloped to become the Center for Vertebral Deformity and Diabetes Treatment. This would later become the Bambino Gesù facility at Palidoro and within a few years, it would be established as a leading medical facility for cutting edge surgical techniques.
In 1985 the Ospedale Bambino Gesù received recognition as an Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS – Institute for Research, Hospitalization and Health Care) and it ranks with other hospitals at an international level, sustaining research and clinical trials for innovative treatments alongside healthcare services.
The hospital has continued to develop and currently boasts an occupancy of approximately 600 beds. Its high level of excellence in quality assurance and treatment complexity management makes it a point of reference at an international level for the healthcare and treatment of children and adolescents.