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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

On October 2, 1936, President Roosevelt laid the corner stone of the new Medical Building at the Medical Center The day was a public holiday by proclamation of the Mayor with schools and public offices closed. Nearly a quarter of a million people, according to the newspaper accounts, lined is as the President drove through them on his way ceremonies, accompanied by Mayor Hague and other Jersey politicians. In his speech the Mayor thanked the for the P.V.A. grant of five million dollars that had enabled Jersey City to proceed with the building construction, which had been stopped during the depression.

The President said in his address: `The overwhelming majority of the doctors of the nation want medicine kept out of politics. On occasions in the past attempts have been made to put medicine into politics. Such attempts have always failed and always will fail....' None are so blind as those who will not see; every item on the ceremonies of that day was intended to utilize the building of the hospital as political capital: the holiday, the parade, the political speeches. Perhaps attempts to put medicine into politics are doomed, as the President said, to failure; but Jersey City has been doing it for nearly twenty years, and so far with notable success.

The President might have been expected to observe the political activities going on before him, of which he was a part, but he had no means of knowing in how many ways politics and medicine have been neatly blended in Jersey City. He could not know, probably, that the payroll ($2,682,864 or more for 1940) is a fertile field for party funds. It is an open secret in Jersey City that three per cent of every public salary is payable to the organization before every election, and that failure to pay results in dismissal. That this has taken place with hospital employees is a matter of sworn testimony.

An electrician named Otto Uhl testified before the New Jersey Civil Service Commission in 1929 that his job at the hospital had been abolished because he had refused to donate three per cent of his salary for the city election. He testified that for four years he had met the assessment, but in 1928 financial reverses and illness made it impossible for him to pay, and he so advised Thomas Mulligan, utility man at the hospital, who was the collector among hospital employees. His job, which for four years had been regarded as necessary, was nonetheless abolished by a resolution of the city commissioner for `reasons of economy.' Commissioner William B. Quinn, who had introduced the resolution, testified that he knew nothing about the matter, that the resolution had simply been handed to him by Joseph Collins, then Mayor Hague's secretary. (New York Times, September 12, 1929.)

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