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THE FUTURE FORESHADOWED
Under Justin Greene's leadership, Northwest Hospital went about the everyday tasks of providing medical care to the people of the North End.
All the while, though, they were also setting the foundations for excellence; and in just two years, the hospital would be given the highest rating by the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation.
In his letter to the medical staff, Justin Greene wrote, "It was pointed out by Dr. Weir [the examiner] to the Executive [Committees] of both the Board of Trustees and the Medical Staff that it is quite rare to see a hospital so well prepared with such a short time behind it, and for its first survey. I think this fact indicates the great amount of cooperation that Northwest has had from all of you individually, collectively working on committees, with our department personnel and, in fact, with all personnel in the hospital."
Northwest has many technological and management innovations to its credit, but when people talk about "quality of care," they usually mean how they're made to feel while they're in the hospital. From the beginning, with people such as Dr. Gould leading the way, technology and management have been made to serve the people who are serving the patient.
Certainly Mr. Greene had a lot to do with the caring patients felt when they entered Northwest Hospital. "He knew the name of every employee, I'm sure," recalled Wyn Hutton. "I always remember one thing he did for one of my employees. I had [an employee] who was about 69 when Medicare began. She came to me and said, 'Now, shall I drop my Blue Cross, or shall I do this, or shall I do that ...?' [I told her I'd ask Mr. Greene.] He said, 'Tell Myrtle to come up and see me.' He sat and talked to her for an hour, and she really could not believe that the administrator in the hospital would speak to someone equivalent to a nurse's aide for over an hour advising her what to do."
Ms. Hutton was quite an influence on the hospital herself. It was she who brought to Northwest in-service training for operating department nurses. In 1960, she said, few hospitals had such programs on a regular basis, but "From the time we opened, we had one hour delegated for in-service, on Tuesday mornings. Every week there was a presentation. For those who were not able to attend, I used to tape the meetings for them to listen to, at their convenience.
"As a matter of fact," she continued, "even when I left in '82 it still was not all that common in the hospitals in Seattle or around the country. Northwest was always very progressive."
Nursing has always been important to Northwest Hospital. As Dr. J. Philip Sauntry, one of the first physicians admitted to practice at Northwest and later chief of staff, chief of surgery, and board member, said, the nurses "have maintained that warmth that was here from the first week the hospital opened."
Ms. Hutton and her colleagues recruited the best nurses they could find; many of them had worked together and with Northwest physicians before at other hospitals. "I remember one of the doctors coming in and looking around. He said, 'New hospital, new equipment, same old faces!'
In 1961, the hospital opened a new department that would bring renown to the hospital: physical therapy. Northwest eventually became a leader in physical medicine and stroke rehabilitation, establishing a comprehensive rehabilitation program in 1967 and a Stroke Center two years later.
Other rehabilitation and therapeutic services would be added to the hospital's repertoire during the 1960s. The Speech and Language Clinic opened in 1967 to help people overcome voice and speech disorders such as stuttering or articulatory defects and delayed speech and language development, and recover from such conditions as stroke or brain damage, laryngectomy, and cleft palate. In 1968, the department began a diagnostic and therapeutic program for hearing disorders. The Speech and Hearing Center, as it's now called, provides a wide range of services, including hearing examinations for seniors, and community outreach programs such as the annual Christmas party for hearing-impaired children.
In 1967, the hospital became one of the few hospitals in the state to have an inhalation therapy department. Inhalation therapy, at the time relatively new, helped patients with emphysema, asthma, bronchiectasis, pulmonary edema, cystic fibrosis, and even such minor illnesses as coughs, croup, and the common cold.
Occupational therapy expanded its staff and capabilities and began a special program for cardiac patients.
In 1968, the hospital added a social services department headed by Bertha Doremus. She would help physicians deal with patients who had complicated personal circumstances and help the patient and his or her family with those circumstances, whether social, occupational, medical, or financial.
There were other glimmerings of things to come during the hospital's first few years. For example, babies were beginning to
play an important role at the hospital — perfectly fitting for an institution started by an obstetrician! Northwest celebrated its second birthday by admitting its 20,000th patient — an expectant mother. The 10,000th baby would be born sometime in 1966, the same year the hospital would add another delivery room, and in 1968, the hospital broke its own record for the number of babies delivered in one month, 250, topping the previous record of 231, set in June of 1967. The hospital's community newsletter, Kloshe Kumtuks, boasted that the "September figure is believed to also establish a new mark for Seattle and King Country hospitals." Indeed, at the end of his term in 1968, Chief of Staff Dr. Philip Sauntry would report that Northwest Hospital had the largest OB/Gyn service in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1965, Northwest began offering childbirth classes for prospective parents, beginning a long tradition of parent education that today includes prenatal care, labor, delivery, parental emotional adjustment, care of the newborn, infant development, and lactation.
Northwest's outstanding cancer program may be said to have begun in 1965, when the hospital added a radioisotope Magna Scanner used in the detection and treatment of tumors and Dr. Sauntry organized the Tumor Registry in association with the American Cancer Society and American College of Surgeons.
The 1960s also saw the beginnings of a focus on community outreach that has led Northwest to provide a number of free or low-cost services and educational programs to its neighbors in the North End. It was the first hospital in King County to offer "The Stroke Patient and Activities of Daily Living," a course for relatives of stroke victims, and in 1965 was the only community hospital in the area offering "Living with Diabetes" courses.
When the first hospital addition opened in 1967, Northwest became the second Seattle hospital to operate a coronary intensive care unit. The unit included monitoring equipment developed by Physio-Control, Inc. that provided continuous EKG, pulse, and blood-pressure monitoring.
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