Verdugo Views: There was a time when a hospital stay cost $4 a day

There's a certain group of people who have a common bond; they were born at Physicians and Surgeons Hospital here in Glendale. Douglas Motley is one of those people.

Motley's parents were living on Highland Avenue in Northwest Glendale when he was born in 1946.

Physicians and Surgeons Hospital had opened just 20 years before, when a group of local doctors decided the time was right for another medical institution.

Several hospitals were already here, and the region had a reputation as a medical town, according to “Glendale Area History,” published in 1981. Capital stock of $250,000 was offered to finance a three-story building on property on the north side of Laurel Avenue, between Glendale Avenue and Brand Boulevard.

In 1926 the new hospital was dedicated to “the health of the community.” Touted as “thoroughly modern and embodying all the latest equipment and construction,” the new hospital competed with the other medical institutions, including the Glendale Sanitarium, which had opened a new facility a few years before on Wilson Avenue and Jackson Street.

In the 1930s, Physicians and Surgeons Hospital issued a wonderfully descriptive pamphlet of the services it provided for medical, surgical, orthopedic and obstetrical patients “irrespective of race or religious affiliation.”

At the time, rates for a hospital stay (not including surgery or treatments) was $4 a day in a five-bed ward, while semi-private rooms were $5.50 and private rooms were $7 to $8. A front corner room went for $10 per day. All the rooms had lavatories and toilets. And, yes, that fee included general nursing care and complete dietary services.

Meanwhile, the fee for the operating room was $17.50 for a major operation and $7.50 for minor surgery. Emergency operations performed between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. cost $20.

The maternity department was promoted as a safe place for both mother and baby. “The safest place for any baby to be born is in the maternity department of an approved general hospital of fire-proof construction and with modern equipment. Here are present the means for safeguarding the two lives at stake in the process,” noted the pamphlet.

Remember, in the 1930s, many births were still taking place at home (only 36 percent were in hospitals in 1935, according to an online article in “Birth and the Family Journal,” written in 1977).

At Physicians and Surgeons' maternity ward in the mid-1930s, flat rates covered seven, eight or 10-day stays and included use of labor and delivery room, all normal supplies and general nursing, plus, naturally, nursing care and laundry for the baby.

Costs ranged from $75 for a private room for a seven-day stay to $40 for a similar stay in a ward bed.

World War II brought about a huge population explosion in this area. First, many people came here to work in the war effort; then after the war came the baby boom.

It's a good thing the hospital had expanded in 1942, increasing its capacity from 47 to 110 beds, because, by the time Motley was born there in 1946, Physicians and Surgeons Hospital's maternity ward was a popular place.

The name was changed to Memorial Hospital of Glendale in 1955 and in 1966 they broke ground for an eight-story addition. By 1969 it had grown to 270 beds — and 30 bassinets.

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