The Relief Society originally set up Deseret Hospital in the Twelfth Ward of the City, in 1882. Two years later, it was moved to the Seventeenth Ward occupying the old Deseret University Building on the corner of 2nd West and 1st North (I believe this is where the Relief Society Building now stands). The President of the Hospital was the Bishop of that ward, Bishop H. B. Clawson. The Board of Directors had all been women, but they were beginning to allow an occasional man or two.
Morning and Evening prayers were offered and patients, who were able, were invited to attend. On Sunday, meetings were held in the large reception room, and the sacrament administered to all in the house who were members of the Church.
This hospital was unique amongst the three that were in the valley at this time. St. Marks was functioning well. The patients at the Hospital of the Holy Cross were well cared for by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. But Deseret Hospital opened its doors to all, even if payment could not be given. This meant the Board (leaders in the Relief Society), as well as good-hearted members of the community had to donate money enough to keep its doors open.
An article in the Woman’s Exponent (dated October 15, 1884) encourages people to donate $1 a year to help, as well as in kind donations, such as fruit, produce, “anything in fact that the liberal and kind-hearted public feel to give will be acceptable.”
The resident doctor at the time was Martha P. Hughes, M.D. “She is a graduate of a three-fold diplomatic inheritance; by dint of alms at unprecedented study and indefatigable energy. She staggers not at the most difficult clinical or surgical work of the Hospital.” Dr. Hughes suffered from a hip joint disease, so painfully she limped to each of her patients, yet continued to work tirelessly. In fact, all of the patients of the hospital agreed that they were treated like kings and queens.
The public was urged to visit and see for themselves the tender care that was received for those in need of medical attention. By seeing for themselves, surely they would desire to help by donating to the good cause.
This hospital would remain open for another twenty years, sadly to end up closing its doors for want of additional donations. The burden became too great for the Relief Society to maintain. Because of its policy to treat everyone, whether they could pay or not, people took advantage and funds for the hospital were never enough to keep the expenses free and clear.