Today medical care is considered a priority in Europe and elsewhere around the world. But this has not always been the case.

Surviving written records from past civilisations reveal that care of the sick was not usually considered a priority. Sometimes a chronically or terminally ill person was just left to die. But on the battlefield, the situation differed. Because good soldiers were needed at all times and could not be allowed to die, wounds had to be treated quickly. Cities were usually some distance from the battlefield, so a temporary structure was set up nearby to care for the wounded. Since the unfortunate soldiers either walked or were carried in, the French called this type of early field hospital hôpital ambulant, or “walking hospital.”

Ambulant was a French derivative of the Latin participle ambulans, meaning “walking.” English later adopted the term, eliminated the first word and changed ambulant to “ambulance.” It now of course refers to the type of transportation used to transfer a patient.

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