Basel’s Ambulance Services Celebrate 100-Year Anniversary

© kanton basel-stadt

This year, Basel’s ambulance services celebrate their 100-year anniversary. The modern ambulance services that exist today have come a long way from the four-wheeled handcarts used in Basel at the turn of the century. A few police posts had carts on which lay a basket that could be carried by two strong men to get patients out of buildings through the often narrow stairwells before the vehicle could take them at a leisurely pace to the hospital on Hebelstrasse. If someone was seriously ill or had an accident in the immediate vicinity of the hospital, two nurses usually went there with a stretcher to pick up the patient.

In addition to the police officers and the nurses, carriage companies were also an important part of the patient transport system. In 1911, ambulances became better equipped and could be drawn by horses. They were stationed one each at the Settelen Fuhrhalterei on Türkheimerstrasse, at the Keller Fuhrhalterei on Drahtzugstrasse, and on St. Margarethenstrasse. In 1914, for the first time, an electric car was added to the existing horse-drawn vehicles, which was later used as a mortuary transport car for many years. When in 1921 this single car was no longer sufficient, a petrol car made in Switzerland was purchased for the first time, which was later followed by others.

The financial burden of patient transport has always been a matter for the medical authorities. In 1914, the Bürgerspital took over the operation of the electric ambulance. Half of the deficit was borne by the Bürgerspital (community) and half by the canton’s medical department. In 1918, the hospital withdrew from its previous financial obligations, leaving the canton’s medical department entirely in charge of the ambulance’s operation.

With a resolution passed on May 2, 1922, the government council approved the takeover of the patient transport service by the canton’s medical department, now called the “Gesundheitsdepartement” (health department). In 2008, however, the ambulance services, as well as the other “blue light services” (police, fire department, rescue services, etc.) were incorporated into the Justiz- und Sicherheitsdepartement (justice and security department) Basel-Stadt.

To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of canton Basel-Stadt taking over the ambulance services, numerous activities are taking place throughout the year, including the “Blaulichttag” (blue light day) on September 24 that will be held on Barfüsserplatz with exhibitions of a large part of the vehicle fleet as well as images, videos, and audio sequences illustrating the ambulance service’s history.

photo: © kanton basel-stadt