(covers information from several alternate timelines)
A hospital ship or medical ship was a starship whose primary function was to be used for medical purposes. This could include serving as a hospital, ambulance, or pharmacy. Because of this, they were typically not well armed with weapons or other defensive systems.
Various species and cultures had ships of this nature, including the Federation. One of these, the as the medical frigate classified USS Hiawatha, was lost in 2256, during the Federation-Klingon War. Its wreckage was by accident discovered by USS Discovery and some of Hiawatha's survivors were subsequently rescued. (DIS: "Brother")
In the anti-time future, one such hospital ship was the USS Pasteur, operated by Starfleet Medical, as indicated by its emblems on the primary hull and their prominent presence on the bridge. In that same future, the Klingon Empire conquered the Romulan Star Empire and grew hostile towards the Federation. In 2395, there was a Terrellian plague outbreak on Romulus. Federation medical ships had permission from the Klingons for crossing the border, so they could deliver medical supplies to the planet. Still, Pasteur was destroyed by the Klingons, as it had wandered into their space without permission, though its crew was rescued by the timely arrived USS Enterprise-D. (TNG: "All Good Things...")
One subject discussed at a conference on Romulus during the Dominion War in 2375 was a proposal to transfer twenty-five Federation hospital ships to the Romulans. (DS9: "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges")
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