Sample Essay on Ellis Island hospital

Ellis Island hospital

The Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital was the first public hospital to be opened in United States in 1902. However, this was a hospital like no other because the facility was mainly used to hold or take care of the sick immigrants. It was more like a detention facility for the new immigrants in the nation especially those who had failed the health inspection test who were considered to be unfit to go through the Island to United States. All the immigrants who were found to be unhealthy based on tests that were conducted in the hospital, the government had made a rule that would lead to their detention in the Ellis Island hospital while others were deported back to their motherlands. This particular health facility was divided into two parts: a general hospital and a section where individuals suffering from contagious disease were hospitalized. One thing that is evident from the Ellis Island hospital is the poor ways in which the immigrants were treated upon arrive at the hospital and during their stay which is evaluated below.

Upon arrive at the Ellis Island the immigrants were faced with the main challenge of having to wait for a long period in long lines to be inspected by the police. This was a rule that the government had set with the main intention of trying to minimize the health burden in the nation. In this regard, everyone who landed at the harbor was to undergo inspection[1]. However, the kind of inspection that was conducted differed among classes of passengers with the first and second classes considered to bring with them no or less burdens to the general public since they could afford such kind of a ride in the ship. However, the lower-class individuals majority of which were immigrants were left in crowded conditions as they waited for the medical checkup in Ellis Island Hospital. They lacked water, protection or any form of meals for all their waiting period and no one bothered to help or offer them a hand.

However, to make matters worse, any kind of immigrant who appeared sick was automatically market using a blue chalk and sent directly to the detention area for the medical team to conduct on them a medical examination. They did not consider the fact that these immigrants perhaps looked sick because of the long journey or as a result of starvation. In the detention area, they had to wait for a long line for them to be observed at Ellis Island Hospital. On the other hand, those individuals who were found to be suffering from contagious diseases or had some form of disabling ailments were automatically deported back to their homes.

Studies have revealed that the steamship companies had been warned against transporting any immigrant who was impoverished, ill or even disabled[2]. Those ships that were found to illegally ferry such kinds of immigrants were heavily fined.  The unlucky part is that of all the ten immigrants that found themselves at the Ellis Island Hospital, ended up being marked with the mystifying chalk for contagious ailments or some form of disability. This showed the high level of discrimination among the whites to the immigrants in the nation. There were also alphabetical ailments that were marked using various letters. For instance, the letter Ft stood for feet while K for hernia while Pg for women who were pregnant[3].

All those immigrants who had failed the medical inspection test were expected to undergo a hearing before the Board of Special Inquiry. There were about 10 percent of the entire immigrants who were taken for the hearings. During the hearing, they were fired with various question such as their age, marital status, destination, and occupation[4]. The aim of the questioning was to enable the inspectors to determine their economic, social and moral fitness which could be used to determine whether they were left to stay in the country or deported back. According to the Alien Contract Labor Law, the immigrants were offered a chance while before the inspectors to convince them that they were resourceful, strong and intelligent in order not to be deported. The immigrants were left with the hard task of showing and proving their ability to work in the nation to add economic value. They were expected to do so without any promises that had previously been given to them by their relatives or family members.  About two percent of those who went through questioning were always found unfit and deported immediately. Those who were deported were considered to possibly increase the medical and economic burden in Ellis Island Hospital.

The other major challenge was the condition in the detention centers at Ellis Island Hospital. The immigrants were kept under metal railings that were divided for them. To make matters worse, the area was overcrowded which increased the rate of contamination of diseases among the inmates. At the same time, there was no enough food that was provided for them while at the same time, the immigrants had to endure environmental factors such as cold weather at night without because of the shortage of the beddings.


Chan, Sewell. “Ellis Island’s Forgotten Hospital”. New York Times, 2 October 2014.

Kraut, Amanda. “Guardians of the Gate: The Ellis Island Hospital and Immigrant Patients in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries.” PubMed Journals  6, no. 2(2013) 18-23.

Limata, Carole. Ellis Angels: The Nurses of Ellis Island Hospital. New York: Carole Lee Limata, 2014

[1] Amanda Kraut,“Guardians of the Gate: The Ellis Island Hospital and Immigrant Patients in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries.” PubMed Journals  6, no. 2(2013) 20.

[2] Amanda Kraut, “Guardians of the Gate: The Ellis Island Hospital and Immigrant Patients in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries,” PubMed Journals  6, no. 2(2013) 19.

[3] Carole Limata, Ellis Angels: The Nurses of Ellis Island Hospital,  (New York: Carole Lee Limata, 2014), 102.

[4]  Sewell Chan, “Ellis Island’s Forgotten Hospital”, New York Times, 2 October 2014