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The Boss
TURNING HOSPITAL BEDS INTO VOTES: SOCIALIZED MEDICINE UNDER THE HAGUE MACHINE

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

At the time a new unit of the Medical Center was dedicated in 1931 the city published a pamphlet, illustrated with photographs, entitled `The Story of the Medical Center.' The pamphlet does not tell the whole story, but the anonymous authors probably felt that in a city of mysteries one more makes no great difference. They preferred the 'romance in Jersey City hospital history.' No one inquires how much romance costs. City can nether be photographed, nor drawn, nor painted,'

`The real picture of the great Medical Center in Jersey the authors. `It can better be told.' But to hear it told Jersey City an outsider would infer that there was no hospital in Jersey City until Frank Hague became mayor, and that since then there has been none but the Medical Center. An historian of Jersey City, however, insists that there has been some sort of public hospital even from the earliest days of the city. The first important one was built in 1866, rebuilt and enlarged in 1868. `In 1882 a new site was secured on Baldwin Avenue and Montgomery Street [where the Medical Center now stands], and a large hospital building was erected.... The hospital was finished in December, 1882, and was opened at once..." (Alexander McLean, History of Jersey City, New Jersey (1895), p. 151)

First called the Charity Hospital, its name was changed to City Hospital in 1885, when a new wing was added. By 1893, according to figures compiled by McLean, it was doing annually an immense amount of work: 4095 surgical cases, 1972 medical dispensary cases, 691 ambulance calls, and 19,791 prescriptions filled. A more modern building was put up in 1906, and a school of nursing established a year later. In 1917, during Mayor Fagan's administration, the cornerstone was laid for another building.

Even earlier than the first city hospital, the Sisters of St. Francis established a hospital in 1863, which was moved and enlarged in 1869. It grew steadily until it has today 225 beds and an income of $275,000. An Episcopalian hospital, Christ Hospital, was opened in 1873: it has today grounds, buildings, equipment, and endowment worth $1,500,000. There are, in addition to those just mentioned, six other hospitals in Hudson County not supported by public funds. Besides Jersey City, four other municipalities in Hudson County have public hospitals.

According to the lyrical authors of `The Story of the Medical Center,' it was about 1921 that the first unit of the center, the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, `was built in the mind of Mayor Hague.' He was mayor of only a single municipality, but it was to be built by the county, in his city. `The idea grew.' It has grown ever since. `Mayor Hague felt it a duty to share the idea with all of Hudson County'; it was a duty indeed, for the people of the county were going to pay the $1,600,000 in bonds, plus that much more in interest. `So his next step was to confide with [sic] Congressman Auf der Heide and Congresswoman Mary T. Norton, then members of the [County] Board of Freeholders.' They were, of course, found to be `heartily in accord with the idea,' and Hudson County proceeded to build the biggest and the best maternity hospital in the world.

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