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Mason County Memories

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Hospital History

The Hospital Association held a public meeting in April 1908 to solicit funds for maintenance of the hospital. The men of the community, surprised by the success of the Hospital Association, offered to collect $2,000 to maintain the hospital for one year. Members of the Board of Trade (an organization similar to the Chamber of Commerce), appointed committees to contact the merchants, clubs, schools and citizens of the county for contributions.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Steams gave their home, located next door to the hospital, to the Hospital Association in July 1908. This home was to be used as a nurse's home. (This building has since been razed for a parking lot.) Justus Stearns paid for the alterations necessary to convert the home into a nurse's home. The Michigan State Nurse's Association approved the opening of the Paulina Steams Hospital Nursing School on July 1, 1908. The school was under the guidance of Miss Nellie Dort, the second superintendent of the hospital.

It provided a two-year course including lectures by the doctors and the superintendent in the evening. The student nurses worked under the direction of the registered nurses when on duty in the hospital. Four nurses graduated in 1910 after completing all of their studies.1908 was a big year for the hospital and every effort was expended to help raise funds and materials to sustain it. In 1908 a door-to-door canvas was undertaken to collect jellies and jams and an appeal was made to farmers for vegetables to help offset the cost of providing meals for the patients.

Under the auspices of the Hospital Association, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Kalamazoo, a Dr. Bernstein began to visit Ludington in 1910. He saw his regular patients in the morning and conducted a free clinic in the afternoon. Justus Stearns, impressed with what had been accomplished, paid for an extensive addition to the hospital in 1911. The new addition included the first passenger elevator in Ludington. The elevator had a small motor, but the rope had to be pulled by line to raise it to the second floor. The new addition allowed the hospital to care for 133 patients in 1911-1912.

Paulina Stearns Hospital was considered one of the most completely equipped hospitals of its size in Michigan. The nursing school was affiliated with the University of Michigan in 1917 and students were sent to the University for special training. Three students graduated in 1919. By 1919 the hospital was recording and average of 18 adult patients and two babies per day. The overall accounting for the 1918-1919 year was 501 adult patients, two babies, 49 births, 344 operations with 111 medical cases, and 42 cases of accidents

Tag days conducted by the Hospital Guild were instrumental in raising funds for the hospital. The Aug. 9, 1920 Ludington Daily News reported in a Page 1 article that over $ 1,400 had been collected thus far and that all the returns were not in. The guild was comprised of "young matrons" whose group had previously been an afternoon bridge club. The funds were to be used for the new laundry room and equipment. Other forms of fund-raising included a New Year's at the Knights of Columbus Hall with funds earmarked for expansion of the hospital.

In 1922 new state rulings for nursing schools were established. A hospital having less than an average of 20 patients per day could not conduct a nurse's training school. Paulina Stearns Hospital Nursing School had to be discontinued.

Well-baby clinics were held at the hospital starting in 1925. New seals were donated by the Literary Club and a registered dietitian volunteers her services each month, advising good nutrition for babies. 1925 also saw the beginning of the Mending Group. These women spent two days each month at the hospital mending and preparing hospital supplies.

The constitution and bylaws of Mason County Hospital Association were amended in 1928, so that men could be elected to the association and the executive board of the hospital. Bernard Ostendorf became president of the board in 1929. He was the first man to serve as president and all his officers were women.

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