|12/8/2009 8:00:00 AM|
WOODLAWN'S RICH HISTORY IS BUT PROLOGUE TO ITS RICHER FUTURE
By all accounts, Dr. Winfield Scott Shafer was an extremely likable man. He had a persistently sunny disposition and a vigorous sense of humor. Both were pleasant accompaniments to a tireless attention to his patients' needs.
Most importantly, though, Winfield Shafer was a progressive thinker among 19th century Victorian conservatives. He had vision, and he saw a brighter future beckoning in medicine, public health, education, civics and industry. He was ahead of his time and he was not satisfied with concepts; he sought action.
For example, in 1894, a year after arriving in Rochester, he took over stalled efforts to found a teachers' college here and in just one year had secured the site and financed its construction. Rochester Normal University lasted 17 years.
Then, in November, 1905, this 53-year-old physician embarked upon the mission that would make the Shafer name indelible in the city's history.
He bought an imposing white frame home, with two floors of columned porches, from the estate of the late Judge Sidney Keith. It was at Seventh and Pontiac Streets, site of the Fulton County Public Library today.
Dr. Shafer had become convinced that his beloved Rochester must have its own hospital if it was to grow and prosper. He would provide it. He moved his family into the ground floor of the Keith house and furnished the second with beds and a surgery. Few small Indiana cities of that day possessed such a hospital; now Rochester did.
The Keith house was set amidst sheltering oaks and maples on an expansive green lawn. The hospital became known as "The Woodlawn" and it has been thus ever since.
In nearly 103 years from that modest beginning, Woodlawn Hospital has weathered all of its subsequent crises to remain an abiding and comforting presence in the Rochester and Fulton County community. Today it stands at the city's east side, again on a green, tree-filled site that once was the Carithers woods and bird sanctuary. There Woodlawn still pursues its eternal mission: to care, in a personal way, for the health of the county's citizens who own it and others who may need its compassion.
Sustaining this mission has not been easy. Winfield Shafer's death at 64 in 1916 was hurried by the demands of the institution he created. His elder son, Dr. Howard O. Shafer, left a Chicago surgical practice to keep Woodlawn in the Shafer family. He doubled the size of the original home to treat an increasing number of patients. The rigors of his surgical and management duties wore him out and he died just 15 years after replacing his father. He was 52.
Private ownership of Woodlawn then passed in 1932 to another surgeon, Dr. Milton E. Leckrone, son of a doctor and a progressive like the Shafers. He erected a 22-room brick building in 1936 to replace the original Keith residence and the hospital prospered. Yet pressures exacted by Woodlawn on its three surgeon-owners were relentless. Leckrone died of a heart attack in October, 1945, only 44 years old. No other physician was willing to accept such a precarious ownership. And so, shortly after Leckrone's death Woodlawn had to be closed, its fate undetermined. Many feared that the county's citizens would be deprived of local hospital care.
However, this first Woodlawn crisis was met quickly and our hospital rescued from oblivion. After 2,000 freeholders petitioned for it, county officials approved a $65,000 bond issue and Woodlawn reopened with 25 beds on January 7, 1946. For 62 years now, it has been a county-owned institution governed by a commissioner-appointed Board of Trustees.
Our county's citizen-owners have watched carefully over Woodlawn ever since, even if their frequent debates over the course of its future have been rather strenuous. Nevertheless, the hospital has improved consistently as a result of it.
In 1956 the last of the frame structure disappeared and an all-brick hospital appeared with 68 beds. The public helped make that happen by supporting a $583,000 bond issue campaign.
Twenty years later it became obvious that Woodlawn on its residential site was inadequate for proper patient care. Citizen involvement was vigorous and vital in the decision to relocate and modernize. That helped bring about the present handsome building at the city's east edge in 1978. The cost was $5.4 million; the hospital's own funds provided almost $1 million.
Altogether, this is a remarkable record of citizen support for its unique community hospital. And now Woodlawn's exceptional history arrives at its present, which is but a prologue to the future. The hospital is about to receive an extremely well-planned redirection of its services to meet the changes required by its 21st century patients.
The prime example of that change explains all the rest that will follow it. Private rooms in the 1978 hospital were important to its appeal and success, for in-patient care then was the hospital's main function.
Times change and 30 years later, patients now want their services on an out-patient basis, as quickly and comprehensively as possible. Result: 78 percent of Woodlawn's total revenue now is derived from out-patient services.
But the building was not designed for that. Therefore, out-patient services will be centralized on the lower floor for better out-patient care --- from registration through surgery, post-surgery and specialized out-patient departments. The other Woodlawn improvements will flow from solving this need, including access to specialized care, easier registration, better emergency services, separate waiting areas, all the while in-patient and obstetrical services continue at their present expert levels.
I have been involved in each of the hospital's improvement campaigns for 54 years and observed the variations of its progress. I can state unequivocally that today Woodlawn is the best it ever has been: beginning with the farsighted board of trustees and continuing through its general manager, administrators, public relations, surgical and medical staffs and the most compassionate nursing and employee groups ever assembled there.
I was a Woodlawn surgical patient once, as was my wife Marge three times on an emergency basis. Those experiences left us both with an abiding sense of comfort at the existence among us of this hospital and its people.
Woodlawn's leaders have overseen efficiently the hospital's progress to qualify it for the construction and interest loans that will reach $20.6 million. We citizens are asked to participate by pledging another $1.25 milllion over five years for equipment and furnishings. Already $580,000 of this amount is in; $130,000, significantly, by hospital employees alone.
Groundbreaking for the two years of construction will be in mid-September. By then or soon afterward Woodlawn Campaign workers will be calling on you or your group. Listen carefully and then give what you can. It's not the size of pledge that matters here. It's the number of us who make it that will display the admiration we have for Woodlawn.
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