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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

Fifield's Directory of American and Canadian Hospitals estimated the value of its grounds, building, and equipment at $1,800,000 in 1931. It has beds for 9,75 adult patients, but the average daily number is 160 mothers, 130 babies. The very best of service is provided, including classes for expectant mothers, clinics for special dental, heart, or tubercular patients, and nurses who visit homes after the patients are discharged from the hospital. It has a lower death rate than any other maternity hospital in the world. The charges vary from $3.50 a day for ward patients to $192 a day for private- room patients, but the total amount collected in 1939 was only $191,671, whereas the county spent on the hospital and the nurses' home (they are lumped together in the budget) $958,000. The net cost was $766,329 for this unit of the hospital alone, not counting interest on the bonds. The 1940 budget appropriates $1,117,000, and the anticipated revenue is $150,000; so the county fathers expect a loss of $967,000. St. Francis' Hospital, which is about the same size, has total operating costs, including the school of nursing, of approximately $275,000. Christ Hospital, which has seventy fewer beds than the Margaret Hague Hospital, but which also has a school of nursing, costs $?35,000 a year or less.

The Mayor did not name the hospital himself. `The Story of the Medical Center' tells us that `the name "Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital" came from Supervisor O'Neill [superintendent of county patronage]. There it stands, a magnificent structure in memory of the humble mother of a distinguished son, a service to all [women] who wish to become mothers within its well-equipped rooms.' There it stands, ten stories of it.

The tallest unit of the seven is the Surgical Building, twenty-three stories high, which is designed to care for a thousand patients, both medical and surgical. This building has sixteen floors of better-than-typical hospital rooms and seven floors of operating, therapy, clinical, and all the other kinds of rooms that go with an up-to-date hospital. It belongs to Jersey City, and according to Fifield's estimate, cost approximately 510,000,000. Just how much it costs to operate cannot be separately determined from the budget figures.

There are five other important buildings in the Medical Center: the Medical Building, the Hudson County Tuberculosis Hospital, the Psychiatric Hospital, the staff house, and the nurses' home. The smallest of these units is fifteen stories high. In addition to the big seven, there are two other buildings that deserve mention, the old City Hospital, which has been rebuilt and modernized, and the Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

'Ninety-Nine Floors of Hospitalization,' says `The Story of the Medical Center,' `2000 beds.' In a county of 700,000 people, it is the third largest hospital in the world. Everything about it is not only large, but expensive. The floors are of terrazzo; the corridors have marble wainscoting, even though the marble is only one eighth of an inch thick. Not only the operating rooms, but also the service and utility rooms, are completely tiled. By some unfortunate oversight the Surgical and Medical Buildings were erected with insufficient elevators, so that doctors and patients cannot get from one floor to another quickly. And inadequate facilities for the disposal of garbage were provided, so that garbage and patients often have to travel on the elevators together. All the buildings are of steel skeleton construction, fireproof, faced with buff-colored brick. Some homes of Jersey City politicians were built, oddly enough, of exactly the same kind of brick. Such coincidences add to the romance of Jersey City hospital history.

The doctors and nurses, as George Creel said, live in quarters that `are the equal of any rich man's club.' The Medical Director, Doctor George V. O'Hanlon, in addition to his salary of $12,000 and his living expenses, is provided with a penthouse on top of one of the buildings. Other penthouses and salaries of $10,000 in addition to maintenance go to Doctor Edgar Burke, resident surgeon, and to Doctor Berthold S. Pollak, the head of the Tuberculosis Hospital. The costs of the furnishings of the penthouses are said to have been $50,000 each. Lesser personages still have handsome suites in which to live, and there are libraries, lounges, gymnasia, and consultation and study rooms. There are six classrooms for the student nurses. All the attendants receive the very best of food. A French chef at $4000 a year is em- ployed to provide it.

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