Ten Decades. One Hundred Incredible Years
“Elkhart General Hospital” officially became incorporated. At that time, “Elkhart General” was only an idea; it did not yet exist as a hospital. In fact, the only local hospital of substantial note was Clark Homeopathic Hospital, a brick structure that still stands at 126 North Clark St., off Jackson St. near downtown Elkhart.
Elkhart gets a new Hospital, thanks in part to a $10,000 donation from Dr. Franklin Miles. One stipulation: At least $30,000 additional funds must be raised from other sources. Contributions included proceeds from the sale of a donated automobile. Final facility cost: $80,000.
Elkhart General Hospital Training School for Nurses, housed in a dormitory adjacent to the Hospital, graduated its first class. According to one graduate, “We learned that a nurse must be as strong as a horse, work like a slave, and act like a lady.”
A major modernization inspired this report from The Elkhart Truth: “The cheerful color tones drew much approval, as did the scientific appointments of basement rooms and such installations as the automatic heat controls and rubberized floors.”
The Elkhart General Hospital Auxiliary was established. On October 1, 1951, a letter was sent to Elkhart women, inviting them to join an organization whose purpose was “to promote and advance the welfare” of the Hospital. Fourteen years later, the Auxiliary had become the largest women’s service organization in the city of Elkhart and Elkhart County.
Average daily census was 98.8 patients, with an average length of stay of 5.5 days. 3,170 operations were performed – twice the national average for a 100-bed hospital; 1,655 babies were born, also twice the national average. A semi-private room “rented” for $11.50 per day.
A remodeling project added 12 beds, raising the total bed count to 178. And in 1957, new bathroom (a shower stall replacing a bathtub in some bathrooms) and toilet facilities were installed on the third floor of the old section. Additionally, the Hospital purchased more land for future growth needs.
In late 1957 and early 1958, two new floors opened on the South Wing. On December 9, 1957, the 5th floor welcomed the Pediatrics Unit, and on January 2, 1958, the 4th floor began admitting patients for general surgical. An additional store room for medical and surgical supplies also opened on the 6th floor. This expansion allowed the original 1913 building to be used as a psychiatric unit and for additional adult beds. Thus, overall Hospital capacity increased to 198 beds.
The Auxiliary began preliminary planning for a disaster unit to assist the Hospital in case of civic emergency. Six years later, the auxiliary was highly praised by Hospital administrators for its help in aiding victims of the Palm Sunday tornado in 1965.
Elkhart General again purchased land for future growth needs and paid off three mortgages on three pieces of property. A qualified architect was also hired to develop plans for an additional 78 beds, which would bring the total bed count to 276. Additionally, in 1960, the hospital auxiliary added a new service to maternity: demonstrating formula preparation and infant bathing to new mothers.
The Dietary Department at the Hospital served a then-record of 245,007 meals – an average of 669 meals a day.
The Elkhart General Blood Bank averaged over 29 transfusions a week, and took in an average of nearly 34 donations a week.
In October 1963, the 198-bed Hospital was in the midst of a $3 million construction program that would add a new northwest wing and about an additional 113 additional beds. When completed, it would more than double the current floor space of the entire Hospital. Moreover, for the first time ever, an emergency generating plant would be able to maintain vital functions in the unlikely event of a complete outside power failure. Unlike the burners of the old boilers for heating, which operated only on fuel oil, the new boiler could switch between gas and oil, in case of a shortage in one of the two fuels. In the fall of 1963, 10 laundry machines processed about 20,000 pounds of laundry in a six-day week.
In 1964, Elkhart General dedicated its sixth expansion. The construction program was financed through a community fundraising program, which was matched by funds from the federal Hill-Burton Act for hospital construction. Besides the new four-story northwest wing, remodeled areas provided new quarters for X-ray, emergency, pharmacy, psychiatric, laboratory, physical therapy, occupational therapy, obstetrics and recovery rooms. The construction program also made possible the addition of an intensive care unit, an interdenominational chapel and a research laboratory. By this time, the hospital had also been granted continual, unconditional approval by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals.
The Hospital's four-story addition officially opened, bringing capacity to 310 beds. According to the open house brochure, "It is hoped that this will eliminate the need for placing patients in the hallways, which was sometimes necessary before the expansion." Ten beds were for the intensive care unit, "a relatively new idea in patient care."
The Elkhart General Hospital Foundation was established to further the Hospital’s charitable, scientific and educational activities. On May 15, 1966, the “Meals on Wheels” program was inaugurated. The meals were prepared in the hospital kitchen and delivered by volunteers from the various supporting agencies. During 1966, as many as 15 people a day were provided food. On September 1, 1966, for the first time, the Hospital was guaranteed 24-hour physician coverage in the emergency room, thanks to a contract signed with five doctors.
The medical staff elected its first woman as chief (Lucretia Swank, M.D.). In fall 1969, construction started west of the Hospital on an employee parking lot, which would accommodate approximately 170 cars.
In October 1970, Elkhart General entered into a contractual arrangement with Oaklawn Center in Goshen, whereby the two facilities could operate as the “Comprehensive Mental Health Center” for Elkhart County. 1970 also saw the complete installation of short-wave radio equipment tied into the Indiana Hospital Emergency Network, which was a radio communications system enabling hospitals to converse with each participating hospital in the state and region. The program’s purpose was to alert hospitals about Toll Road accidents.
The first total hip replacement surgery occurred at the Elkhart General Hospital.
In March 1973, the old nurses’ home adjacent to the Hospital was finally demolished by a wrecking ball. Additionally, Elkhart General became the third hospital in the nation to undertake the instruction and evaluation of the advanced Emergency Medical Technician-Ambulance Course, a pilot program under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Transportation. As a result, there was successful resuscitation of several patients by the emergency ambulance crew during their transport to the Hospital. A new six-story structure (Northwest Tower) with a fully functional basement broke ground in February 1973. The building was constructed so that it could be increased to 10 stories. The Tower was also termed Phase IV in a continuing program of upgrading and expansion that began in 1970. Phase I consisted of a greatly enlarged emergency room and much-needed office space. Work on Phases II and III began in 1971. This encompassed expanding and remodeling the basement and first floor of the 1954 south wing.
A new Department of Speech and Hearing Therapy was started. Additionally, the 1977 annual report stated that “A recently completed study reveals that Elkhart General Hospital, despite relentless inflationary trends, has held rates down to approximately 15 percent under the national average.”
Computerized Tomography (CT) – “The most significant advancement in the field of radiology since the discovery of the X-ray” – was installed, dramatically enhancing the Hospital’s ability to care for cancer patients. One year later, the first Mammogram was performed at Elkhart General. Phase V, begun in 1980, further upgraded the intensive care and coronary care units. It also provided better facilities for such functions as occupational and physical therapy, record-keeping and administration. The latest model in telephone switchboard equipment was also installed around this time, with 30 incoming lines to serve the entire Hospital. In 1980, a regional Muscular Dystrophy Clinic was established.
By 1981, volunteer programs included Elkhart General Hospital Auxiliary, Junior Auxiliary (Candy Stripers), Red Coats (a male volunteer program) and Kappa Kappa Kappa (an Alpha Rho chapter that delivered mail to patients six days a week, maintained a permanent hospital gift memorial and regularly provided drivers for the Meals-on-Wheels program). Other services provided by the hospital by 1981 included a blood bank program, a chaplaincy program, a social service department, intensive and coronary care units, a progressive care unit, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, speech and hearing therapy, a psychiatric unit, a special care nursery for infants and newborns, and outpatient (radiology, lab, EKG, EEG, EMG, ENG and pulmonary function testing). In 1981, the nuclear medicine area was expanded by 50%, with the addition of a second, more-advanced nuclear scan gamma camera.
In 1982, the Hospital’s first infant car seat rental/education program (ChildSafe) was established. By December 1982, over 200 car seats had been distributed. In April 1982, a pilot television series was launched, which consisted of 25 three- to four-minute presentations entitled “Michiana Medical Update.” These short presentations featured members of Elkhart General’s own medical staff. Mammography (diagnostic testing for cancer or other diseases of the breast) was also introduced as a new outpatient service in 1982.
In January 1983, the Emergency Department implemented triage nursing to assess the condition of patients as they arrived. In March 1983, a 22-bed Renaissance, Center for Addictions Treatment opened. In May 1983, Hospice opened an office at Elkhart General. In September 1983, the first healthcare cost-containment seminar was held for business and industry, sponsored by the Elkhart General Hospital Foundation.
In 1986, the renovation of the Neonatal Nursery doubled available space to provide care for up to eight infants. A medical floor closed in 1985 was also reopened as a segregated 48-bed unit for orthopedic-neurological and medical services. Cardiology Services was enhanced in 1986 with the acquisition of an ultrasound unit with Doppler and color flow capability for monitoring velocity of blood flow and determining blood movement throughout the heart valves. Patient satisfaction also improved in 1986 with the initiation of a patient representative program. Calls were now being made daily to patients throughout the Hospital.
A mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit was scheduled to begin operation for rapid screens of human organs without invasive techniques or devices. Additionally in 1989, a new Renal Dialysis Unit offered services to kidney patients. The 1989 annual report stated that “Elkhart General enjoys one of the lowest vacancy and turnover rates for nursing in the state.” The report also noted that the Hospital remained the lowest-cost area hospital with over 200 beds, and was ranked among the top seven percent of financially healthy hospitals in the United States.
Elkhart General introduced a new type of advanced laser back surgery (CO2 laser-assisted microdiscectomy) that was less painful than traditional surgery and reduced recovery time by as much as 50 percent. Elkhart General was the only area hospital to offer this procedure.
In December 1992, the Rehab Center opened, an inpatient rehabilitation center for patients recovering from severe accidents, brain and spinal cord injuries, degenerative neurological disorders and strokes. Before then, such patients needed to travel to South Bend or Chicago for treatment.
Heart City Health Center opened to provide high-quality healthcare services to all people, regardless of income.
A three-level parking garage opened with 450 spaces, conveniently located on Arcade Blvd., across from the outpatient services entrance and soon-to-be completed visitor and patient discharge entrance. The garage is open 24 hours a day, at no charge, with handicap spaces and two elevators.The Hospital’s Managed Care Department was created to help the Hospital and its physicians with insurance relationships and managed-care opportunities.
Construction began on RiverPointe Surgery Center, Elkhart County’s first freestanding ambulatory center. Located on the north side of campus, the four-story RiverPointe was a joint venture between Elkhart General and local physicians. The $2.5 million center opened in November 1997.
In January 1997, the first open-heart surgery was performed at Elkhart General, and by year’s end more than 200 procedures had been performed. In April 1997, the Hospital performed the area’s first Minimally Invasive Direct Coronary Artery Bypass (MIDCAP), an entirely new generation of small incision procedures. Heart City Health Center moved into a new building furnished by the hospital. The 7,000 square-foot building more than doubled the size of the old location and included nine exam rooms, a pharmacy and laboratory. Heart City visits also grew from 6,900 in 1996 to more than 11,000 in 1997. The Hospital established Camp KidCare, a 12-bed day-care alternative for mildly injured or mildly ill children located in the pediatrics unit. Mental health professionals at the Hospital set up the “Access Center,” a toll-free number that connected the caller to a professional assessment counselor 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In November 1997, the Hospital added home medical equipment to its Home Care continuum with the opening of a new Home Medical Equipment store on Lexington Avenue in Elkhart. In December 1997, a full-service outpatient pharmacy was opened in the Hospital to serve outpatients, employees and the community. Also in December 1997, the Hospital's Board of Directors voted to adopt the name “Elkhart General Healthcare System” to reflect the many different types of services provided at various locations.
In early 1998, Elkhart General performed its first angioplasty, and over 200 were performed by year’s end. In June 1988, a five-bed Chest Pain Center opened adjacent to the Emergency Department to improve care during the first critical moments of a possible heat attack. Additionally in 1998, the Emergency Department also created FasTrak Urgent Care for handling minor problems quickly, conveniently and at reduced costs. The Center for Joint Replacement also opened. Located in its own separate wing, the Center was the only one of its kind in the Midwest to maximize patient recovery.
Elkhart Community Hospice and Elkhart General’s Home Care services merged to better coordinate care for the terminally ill and their families. In addition, on the new Goshen Campus, a 13,000 square-foot Medical Office Building opened.
The Center for Cardiac Care opened, paving the way for the Elkhart General Heart Center to become the busiest in Michiana. Elkhart General, along with several other healthcare facilities, created Indiana’s first Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), so that Michiana physicians and their patients could more easily participate in national cancer treatment and prevention research. The Hospital also opened up a public Cancer Learning Center the same year.
Elkhart General highlighted a new technique in heart bypass surgery, without stopping the heart or using a heart-lung machine. In 2001, Elkhart General also became a part owner of Community Occupational Medicine on Old U.S. 20 in Elkhart, whose mission is to meet the healthcare needs of the business community. Additionally, a new Women’s Center opened on the Goshen Campus. Among the offerings: a Urinary Incontinence Clinic, a Bone Health Clinic, infant massage classes and postpartum depression counseling.
A four-level, 501-space parking structure was completed adjacent to an existing 690-space parking structure.
The West Wing opened. Attached to the existing Main Hospital, the West Wing consisted of three levels on approximately 3.75 acres at the northwest side of campus and featured centralization of oncology services; an outpatient Women’s Center with mammography services and physicians’ offices; and a birthing unit, including 36 Labor-Delivery-Recovery and postpartum beds, C-section operating rooms, a well baby nursery and an eight-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
The Oncology Care Unit opened. The new unit was about three times larger than the former unit, which permitted expanding from 13 private/semi-private rooms to 20 private rooms. Four of the rooms were “positive pressure rooms” that protect patients with depressed immune systems and two of the rooms are lead-lined for patients who have just completed certain types of radiation therapy.
The Hospital opened a new Electrophysiology (EP) Lab. The Lab housed state-of-the-art technology, including the CARTO System, an advanced computer mapping system that provided a picture of the heart's electrical layout and assisted Cardiologists in locating the sources of irregular heart rhythms.
Elkhart General added the area's first and only 128-slice CT to the Emergency Department. Considered the next evolution in radiology technology, the new scanner provided 2D and 3D imaging for the most accurate and confident diagnoses in areas such as Cardiology, Oncology and Neurology among others.