Northwest Ohio’s Hospitals: Summary

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         Today, it is nearly impossible for a person to avoid spending time in a hospital.  Hospitals are where we go to be born, to be treated for medical emergencies, to have life-saving surgery, and, for many, to die.  But until the late 19th century, to be admitted to a hospital you had to be not just poor, but judged to be deserving of charitable care.  Superintendents were often women—particularly women who belonged to religious orders—who served as protectors of the moral life by caring for those who were ill through no fault of their own.  Hospital buildings were constructed to look like homes, or were in fact homes that had been converted to hospitals.  Both St. Vincent and Toledo Hospital occupied residential houses in their early years of operation.
But between the 1870s and 1920s, this model of care changed due to two factors:  urbanization, which produced more people who needed medical care; and the professionalization of medicine.  Decisions to admit to a hospital no longer depended on whether one was deserving, but rather on the patient’s diagnosis.  The use of aseptic procedures, technology, and laboratory testing meant care had to be provided in a specialized setting according to exacting standards. 
Professionalization impacted all aspects of hospitals.  Well-trained physicians expected professional hospital administrators rather than matronly superintendents who ran hospitals as charities.  Hospital-affiliated nursing schools helped to professionalize through their emphasis on precision, cleanliness, and efficiency.  Hospital architecture changed in order to increase ventilation and keep diseases from spreading. 
Hospitals quickly changed from being perceived as places where the poor went to die to becoming institutions staffed by professionals who could cure ailments and help avoid untimely deaths for persons of all classes.
The cost of hospital care was eased in the 1930s when health insurance plans became available.  In the 1960s, the government entered the health insurance business through its Medicare and Medicaid programs.  Today, issues of advancing technology, escalating costs, highly trained and expensive staffs, competition, government intervention, and external control shape how care is delivered at hospitals. 
The development of hospitals in northwest Ohio followed these national trends.  But each also has its own unique history, as shown here.