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THE FIRST HILL-BURTON APPLICATION
They hoped to get most of the money for the hospital from public subscription, but they soon discovered there was another source of funds: the federal government.
Public Law 725, known as the Hill-Burton Act, provided money to the states to use as matching funds for hospital construction. Washington's share in 1949 was $553,979; in 1950, it was more than $1.8 million.
The Community Memorial Hospital Association was determined to take advantage of this opportunity. There were two obstacles to overcome, though. First, the hospital had to raise enough money to qualify for matching funds. Second, it faced formidable competition for the money.
Seattle General had recently announced that it intended to abandon its downtown location and build a new facility at Green Lake Ballard Hospital was going ahead with plans for a new hospital there. And the developers of Northgate Shopping Center proposed to turn part of their medical-dental building into a hospital. Suddenly it seemed the North End of Seattle would have more than its share of hospitals.
It only made sense to combine efforts with one of these other groups. Although Northgate would figure prominently in the association's deliberations later in the decade, in 1950 they were not of much concern. Northgate had, in fact, suggested in late 1949 that Community Memorial lease the upper two floors of its medical-dental building, but never sent a firm proposal.
Instead, the board initiated talks with Seattle General about the possibility of building a large hospital on Community Memorial's site. As early as June, 1950, Drs. Nelson and Gould met with the Seattle General board and reported back that they felt there were some "real problems involved in this consolidation."
Nonetheless, the association continued to meet with Seattle General, and on February 20, 1951, sent the president of that hospital a letter outlining "the terms upon which our corporation would agree to a consolidation of our efforts to obtain a new General Hospital for the North End."
These terms were "That a new corporation be formed for the purpose of constructing and operating an adequate General Hospital in the North End of Seattle, having a Board with broad representation; such a Board to include representatives from your organization, ours, and other interested and competent individuals from the greater Seattle area," and "That our site of approximately 33 acres at North 120th and Meridian Avenue be reserved for such a hospital development, and that title to this land will be transferred to the new organization, subject to a small outstanding indebtedness."
Whatever "real problems" Community Memorial's scouts may have encountered earlier, there was an obvious one now, for when Seattle General finally responded to Community Memorial's letter, they said that it was their understanding that Community Memorial would turn over its property with no exclusions or provisions.
The board "was simply flabbergasted at the proposal," said one trustee.
It was not long after that, however, that Seattle General was out of the competition for Hill-Burton funds. They had failed to start building their Green Lake hospital in time.
Meanwhile, Community Memorial had been pressing its case with the State Department of Health, which was responsible for administering Hill-Burton funds. On April 2, 1951, after Seattle General was disqualified, J. A. Kahl, M.D., of the Department of Health, wrote to Dr. Nelson that Community Memorial had a "tentative allocation" of $828,000, "subject to your showing reasonable completion of the project and the ultimate approval of your application by the U. S. Public Health Service. The policy of this Department is that if you have not progressed satisfactorily within three months your project will be presented for reconsideration and removal from the Project Construction Schedule."
Just three weeks later, Dr. Kahl reaffirmed the Department's decision by writing, "In summary, the hospital which you propose conforms with [the] Metropolitan Area plan and has been approved by the office as necessary and [essential] not only to serve the civilian population but because of its great value for civilian defense in the case of disaster. We hope that the industries and individual citizens throughout the city will support the development of this vital project."
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