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Eastern Maine Medical Center: 1892-1920

Nursing students, Eastern Maine General Hospital, ca. 1898

Nursing students, Eastern Maine General Hospital, ca. 1898

Item 9388 info
Eastern Maine Medical Center

In October 1895 the visiting staff votes to divide into two sections: a medical staff (Drs. Woodcock, McCann, Swett and Edmunds) and surgical staff (Drs. Simmons, Mason, Hunt, Robinson and Phillips).

A colorful look inside the hospital comes from Nellie Elden Benner, class of 1897. "I started for the Bangor General Hospital (from Bar Mills) January 10. 1895, a day so bitter cold that I suffered all the way. I was met at the station by Miss Harriet Rolfe, the friend who had urged me to come here to train. We took a hack from the station and reached the hospital about 6:30. We went in the gray building, the only one of them. In the hall, men patients sitting in a line of chairs looked over the new nurse. The men's ward was on that floor and when the patients were able to sit up some they were allowed to sit in the hall. The women's ward was on the second floor and one room on the third was for patients, the others for nurses. As we went up through to our room, my friend looked in to the various rooms and told me each patient's trouble. Many were typhoid patients, but there were many surgical cases, too. The next summer the house was so full that the men recovering from surgery were put in a big tent on the lawn in front of the hospital."

The trustees vote that "The matron, with the advice of the attending physician, shall fix the rate of board, attend to the matter of having the necessary blanks signed by the patient, make out, present and collect the bills" and also, "That no patient residing outside the city of Bangor (except emergency cases) shall be admitted to the hospital without a letter from his or her physician stating the facts in regard to his disease, and also information as to his or her financial condition. While certain regulations are necessary and it is not practicable to admit a large number of patients free, yet the trustees believe that it is better to err on the side of liberality and they have deemed the wisest policy to be a liberal one." -- Charles Hamlin

A committee of three trustees (Messrs. Ayers, Humphrey and Cassidy) is appointed to invest cash donations.

Dental surgeon Dr. Langdon S. Chilcott joins the staff.

Electric lighting replaces gas lamps throughout the hospital.

A laundry is set up in the cellar, equipped by the Women's Aid Society for $1,227.

In 1896, "The trustees recommend that the name of the institution be changed (from Bangor General to Eastern Maine General Hospital) so as to show that it is identified with the state."

The place swarms with carpenters and masons, blacksmiths and laborers, arriving in horse-drawn wagons or stepping off the trolley that connects Bangor and Old Town.

In this year they complete an addition to the gray stone house, repair the exterior, improve the grounds, add an iron arch over the driveway, and build a horse shed.

Gifts include a parcel of adjoining land and the addition of "a very commodious bathroom" on the second floor.

Surgeon for the throat and nose, Dr. Harry Butler, joins the staff.

The annual report lists dozens of contributions to the work of the hospital: furniture and bed linens; used books, magazines, and toys; barrels of apples in the fall; canned fruit and fresh flowers through summer; special cakes and gifts at Christmas.

In 1897, the hospital is granted a charter by the Legislature

"I remember the committee from the State Legislature coming to investigate the little Bangor hospital to decide if it were needed, and if worthy of a state grant of funds. ...On this fateful day, the always immaculate little building had an extra going over; nurses wore their best uniforms, patients were implored to smile, look comfortable and not require bedpans while the Legislature was here." --Mabel Hammons, class of 1889

"A new ward building has long been considered a necessity, and as soon as it became evident that nothing could be obtained from the state for a new building, efforts have been made to obtain subscriptions, that would justify beginning work. Recently something over $20,000 has been subscribed for the purpose of running a modern brick ward building, to relieve overcrowded conditions, and to provide suitable surgical rooms."

The treasurer is authorized to make temporary loans between installments of the state appropriation, with approval of the president, and not exceeding in aggregate $1,000.

Work starts on the foundation of the new building; trustees vote to take down the stone wall bordering State Street and use it in the new construction.

The Hersey family donates a parcel of land adjoining the premises on the easterly side.

In 1898, the notebook of nursing student Nellie Elden reveals life inside the gray stone hospital: The staff of nine physicians share service responsibility, each covering for six weeks at a time; they teach nursing students subjects ranging from anatomy to care of the sick room. In addition to attending lectures and preparing for exams, nursing students, under the tutelage of Ellen Paine and the physicians, provide bedside care and surgical assistance, including ether administration.

Students measure and mix prescriptions (perhaps Dr. Woodcock's morphia cough syrup or the MGH recipe for flour paste); they clean patient rooms and "leave the house" for private duty assignments.

Dr. Bertram L. Bryant joins the staff, adding expertise in "pathology and bacteriology."

Subscriptions to the building fund are augmented by an appropriation from the Legislature; the permanent endowment fund shows a "gratifying increase."

The Women's Aid Society will furnish the new wards (for $1,893), with private rooms furnished by individual donors.

In October 1899, the new ward building opens with much fanfare -- extra trolley cars are put in service to bring curious crowds out for the official ceremonies and inspection tours, so they might admire "the pleasantness of the rooms, their comfortable appointments, the spaciousness of the wards, the facilities for fresh air and sunshine and general convenience of every department"

Fourteen nurses are now enrolled in training.

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