Healthcare Advances and New Programs
Throughout the 1930s, with the country in the midst of the Great Depression, Borgess faced serious financial struggles. Nonetheless, Borgess saw many advances in healthcare during this time. These advances included Dr. Roscoe Hildreth’s radium and radon therapy and the many inventions of Dr. Homer Stryker, including his famous CircoLectric bed. Dr. Richard Upjohn Light also began the first out-state neurosurgical and neurological outpatient services at Borgess at this time.
Borgess continued to grow and expand, and in 1953 the Borgess Service League was created. The League’s main objective was to encourage young women to enter the nursing profession. They did this by encouraging girls to participate in the Candy Stripers program, where high school aged girls assisted nurses by organizing patient rooms and passing out food trays. The first intern and residency training program came to the hospital in 1954. The program was so popular that Borgess later built a dormitory on the hospital grounds to house the doctors that traveled to Kalamazoo to participate in the program.
Construction Projects Begin
The 1950s also saw the first major expansion for the hospital since the million dollar renovation that took place in the mid-1920s. In 1954 the hospital conducted a $1,500,000 fund drive for improvements to existing facilities and the construction of a new wing The new wing added a short-term psychiatric ward and new laboratory and pharmaceutical facilities. The addition also increased the number of hospital beds from 260 to 333, an increase that was much needed because the hospital had been operating at its maximum capacity for some time. The addition and renovation was completed and opened in 1957.
The 1954 addition began a long line of expansions and renovations for the hospital. In 1964 $4,000,000 had been raised through a joint hospital fund drive. The money was to be split evenly between Borgess and Kalamazoo’s other hospital, Bronson Methodist Hospital. With extra funding received from the federal government, in 1966 Borgess began making plans for an expansion. The new expansion planned to add 85 beds to the hospital bringing the total number up to 425 beds. The plans also included adding a new intensive care unit, remodeling the emergency ward and adding a new medical library, outpatient psychiatric therapy, occupational therapy, and laboratory space. Though the project was stalled briefly in 1968 when the State Fire Marshall did not approve the plan because the emergency exits were not adequately marked on the blueprints, building began on the project in 1969.
New Firsts for Kalamazoo
In July 1971 Borgess received an $180,000 grant from the Kalamazoo Foundation for the construction and equipping of an intensive care unit for cardiac surgery patients. The unit was part of a planned open heart surgery program and was completed in December 1971. The area’s first open heart surgery was performed at Borgess on 11 January 1972. Along with establishing an open heart surgery program, Borgess established a kidney transplant program in 1971. Their first kidney transplant was performed on 3 November 1971.
New Name, New Additions
Borgess Hospital became Borgess Medical Center in 1979 and in 1980 the hospital opened the Cardiac Rehabilitation Institute, which uses medically-monitored exercise programs to treat and prevent heart attacks. In 1986 Borgess launched a $43,000,000 construction/renovation project. This project renovated three major wings and demolished the East-North Wing that had been built in 1917. The project also added two floors to the North Tower, new critical care units, and expanded the surgery center. While construction continued on the renovation, a new building was being planned. In the summer of 1989 ground was broken on the Lawrence Educations Center, a building that houses a 400-seat auditorium, several classrooms, and a video studio. Along with multiple construction projects the 1980s saw several new programs surface at Borgess. The child car seat safety program, poison control, and the Borgess “Run for the Health of It” program were all added at this time. The hospital also assisted in developing the county’s first EMS system.
Borgess launched its most expensive construction/renovation project yet in 2001, it was the first major construction project since 1986. The plans called for a $77,000,000 three phase project which included tearing down the Stryker Building to make room for a new parking ramp. Other plans included creating a new entrance off the ramp, consolidating all outpatient and inpatient services into two specific areas, and building a new gift shop and pharmacy. Minor renovations were also done to the first floor of the North Tower. The entire construction project was completed in the summer of 2006.
Borgess’ commitment to becoming a better hospital for Kalamazoo is shown in its many construction projects over the years, and its character is shown in its dedication to providing the area with the best healthcare possible. From its Cardiac Center to the programs that it provides for community education, Borgess has provided Kalamazoo with top quality healthcare and education for more than one-hundred years.