‘My gratitude to the great and honourable Trauma. I take it in my heart’. Integral rehabilitation for injured workers in the state traumatological hospital, Chile 1938-1942.
In 1937 the first traumatological hospital was founded in Chile. This centre, constructed and equipped with the most advance technology, aimed to rehabilitate injured workers. The Traumatological Institute belonged to a semi-fiscal accident insurance company, which had been created as a non-profit alternative to private insurance companies. The institution embodied the broader state’s concern for workers’ security and well-being. Inside the walls, patients published El Accidentado del Trabajo [The injured worker], where through poetry, reports, letters and codes of behaviour, among others, they shared their daily matters. Exploring this magazine, this paper will present patients’ thoughts and feelings about the hospital, their treatments and the security system that framed them. As an expression of popular culture, working class identity and patient experience, the magazine provides a genuine and different perspective to approach workers’ relationship with a welfare institution and its professionals. In addition, I will argue that authorities and professionals intended to use hospitalization for more than medical and professional rehabilitation. They aimed to ‘educate’ workers intellectually and behaviourally. In this respect, the hospital acted in line with the political aspiration of working class improvement. El Accidentadoshows patients felt intense gratitude for the healthcare and opportunities they found in the hospital, and pressed other fellows to behave in a ‘civilised’ manner. Yet, the magazine also reveals that other patients manifested indifference or rejection, perhaps against paternalism or the will to modify what they believed was the worker’s identity.