Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War/Care of Consumptives

Care of Consumptives

It was pointed out above that the Danish old-age pension act lacked the necessary supplementary provision for the support of invalids. In regard to this matter, however, it must be noted that one of the chief causes of invalidism, tuberculosis, is being vigorously attacked in Denmark, not only by private institutions but also by the state and municipalities. In Germany invalid insurance has given rise to the establishment of a large number of sanitoriums, for it is evident that the insurance institutions are directly interested in this matter. But in Denmark, without this stimulus, the struggle against tuberculosis has sensibly advanced. An act of 1905 proposing 'Measures to Overcome Tuberculosis' (later amended and modified, the last time in 1918) lays down a number of hygienic regulations. Teachers who are dismissed on account of having contracted infectious tuberculosis are thereby entitled to a pension amounting to two-thirds of their salaries; and the same applies to other officials and office-workers who come in contact with the population in such a way that there is danger of their spreading infection. The act further provides that the state or municipality may require persons suffering from tuberculosis to be placed in hospitals or may take other measures to prevent the spread of the disease, the expense to be borne by the state and municipality jointly. An act of 1905 (later amended), concerning public allowances for the treatment of persons suffering from tuberculosis, provides that subsidies may be granted to sanitoriums recognized by the state within a certain limit; and that any support granted by the state or municipality to families whose natural bread-winners are receiving treatment in these sanitoriums does not come under the head of poor-relief. The state may contribute an amount not exceeding one-half the cost of building such sanitoriums or hospitals, within a certain sum for the accommodation of each patient. Thus a very large number of hospitals for tuberculosis patients have gradually been erected, and several thousand patients are treated yearly.

But there is another important task which begins only when the patient leaves the sanitorium. Our forefathers lived in a happy or unhappy ignorance of hygiene and the dangers of infection. To eat out of the same dish, drink out of the same cup and smoke the same pipe appeared to them neither unsavoury nor unsafe. Modern bacteriology has educated people more or less, however, and tuberculosis patients themselves return to the occupations of everyday life as apostles of the observance of rules of cleanliness and prudence. But with this growing enlightenment there has sprung up a dread of infection, which sometimes makes it difficult for a patient discharged from a tuberculosis sanitorium to obtain work. If he is skilled in office-work, for example, his fellow-workers in the office may shun him as one infected with plague. It is, therefore, a very important duty to help such people, who though they are well and able to work, are unable to find employment. And this does not apply only to persons who have recovered from tuberculosis; it applies to all persons who by disfavour of the times are enrolled in the great army of unemployed.