The Health Care System 3000 Years Ago
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, August 05, 2015 10:38 AM

At an ancient archaeology site in what is now Luxor, Egypt, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the ancient Egyptian’s healthcare plan detailing three types of providers and their payment plans.

Archeologists have uncovered documentation ranging from official documents to personal letters, prescriptions, and legal inquiries about the treatment of the ill, “these documents demonstrate that the workers … who had the important task of building the pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings, were offered a variety of healthcare benefits, including paid sick days and free visits to physicians.

The records prove that the workers visited three types of medical providers:  the physician, the scorpion charmer and the wise woman (translations of the ancient Egyptian words).  

The physician was also a member of the workforce, but while treating patients, he was excused from work and was paid rations by the Egyptian state.  Dealing primarily with responsive or reactive medicine, he treated his patients with ointments and prescriptions and was the primary healthcare provider.

The scorpion charmer mainly treated poisonous bites and stings, but he also served as an intermediary between his patients and the deities by practicing forms of preventative medicine, such as making amulets and charms for his patients.  In ancient Egypt, the lines between magic and medicine were often blurred.  The scorpion charmer was compensated by state religious institutions.

The wise woman, a kind of folk practitioner, helped diagnose the divine causes of illnesses.  She would help her patients determine which god or goddess needed to be supplicated in order to cure a particular illness.  there are indications that the wise woman practitioner lived outside of the community and was not supported by the state.  Individuals privately paid for her expertise.

There were plenty for these practitioners to treat.  Their bones have been identified by an ousteo-archaeologist to have had osteomyelitis, and osteoarthritis of the ankle and knee joints were widespread.

Have things really changed much in the last 3000 years?  Do we still have the:

  • state-sponsored-reactionary-prescriber,
  • the faith-based-potion-pusher, and
  • the practitioner living-outside-of-the-state-and-religious-reimbursement-programs-who-just-practices-what-works-for-the-people.  

The physician practiced in a way that was “good for the state” – keep the workers on the job even if their joints hurt.

The scorpion charmer performed the same service for the state religious institution – promise them anything, just keep them “on the job”.

The wise woman who just sought to the the people who came to her for help.