The adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the [Roman] empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. urged the Church to provide for the poor, sick, widows, and strangers. It ordered the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town. Among the earliest were those built by the physician Saint Sampson in Constantinople and by Basil, bishop of Caesarea. The latter was attached to a monastery and provided lodgings for poor and travelers, as well as treating the sick and infirm. There was a separate section for lepers.Health care, in the context of the Christian church, was viewed as an opportunity for ministry. Just as we will always have the poor with us, so we will always have the sick with us, simply because we live in a fallen world. This attitude, that caring for the sick is a ministry, continued on for most of history. Think about the country doctor who would deliver a baby in exchange for a couple of chickens. He lived among those he ministered to and, even if he didn't become rich, was held in high esteem by the community. His care wasn't just technical; it was ministry, based on love and compassion. (edit: A friend told me Sunday evening that he knew doctors who worked like this up to the 1980's.)
Nationalized medicine is a very bad thing, but it could turn out to be a golden opportunity for the church. The church must step back in and care for the sick as a ministry. Families should be prepared to care for their own. When there is no family available, or if the family is unable to care fully for their own, then the church should step in to help. At this point, we won't be able to offer medications (there's even a drive to make medicinal herbs available by prescription only), but we can offer comfort, compassion, nourishment for body and soul, a human touch, and love. These are vital components of caring for the sick that have been largely lost in the rush to make it a business instead of a ministry, components that the family and the church can and must offer.