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A Look Back at medical facilities

When we old readers of the Hartselle Enquirer were born, if we were not born at the home of our parents, we probably came into the world at the Decatur General Hospital. In those days, Hartselle didn’t have a hospital.  

Dr. Claude Lavender brought Hartselle Hospital on the scene largely thanks to the Hill-Burton Hospital Construction Act of 1946.  

When men were examined prior to induction into the armed forces at the beginning of World War II, many of them – especially those from southern states – were found to have health problems attributable to inadequate medical care earlier in their lives. The main sponsor of the 1946 act was Alabama’s long-time Sen. Lister Hill. On Capitol Hill in Washington, some called Sen. Hill “Mr. Health” because of the leadership role he played in so many areas pertaining to public health. 

In the nottoodistant past, Hartselle could boast of two fully functioning hospitals – the previously mentioned Hartselle Hospitallater called the Hartselle Medical Center, and Block-Chandler Hospitallater called Pineview, started by Drs. W. H. Block and David Chandler.  

Now Hartselle is back to where it was before Dr. Lavender came back to the States after the War. It no longer has a complete hospital. Local residents who require hospitalization need to go to Decatur-Morgan Hospital or Cullman Regional Medical Center. 

This column usually looks back to more distant times than the 1940s. When we “look back” for medical facilities, we find a complete absence of anything in our area that could be called a hospital according to the meaning of that word today. Here are some examples of what was done – or, more precisely, not done – for people who probably needed hospitalization many years ago because of accident or illness.  

Even in those instances where death was probable, comfort could have been provided in the last hours of life. 

–1902: A young man working with lumber got his shirt sleeve caught in the machinery and was whirled around and thrown     against the ceiling. His arms and legs were broken, and he received internal injuries as well. Doctors bandaged his  wounds, although they quickly realized his life probably could not be saved. There was no hospital; the young man was carried on a cot to his home, where he passed away. 

1902: Another young man was shot during a baseball game by the father of the young woman he was dating. The father felt the young man had not shown proper respect for his daughter and, because of this, shot him. The bullet lodged in the breast, and a doctor who was called to the patient’s grandmother’s house was uncertain whether his life could be saved. 

1903: F. F. Davis, who was seriously shot several weeks ago by Will Peppers, has recovered sufficiently to be removed from Dr. Davis’s residence to his home on College Street, and his many friends trust he will soon be able to be back at his place of business. 

1908: Mrs. Dorsett and daughter, who were painfully hurt in the recent storm, have been brought to this place and are being cared for by friends here. 

Sometimes physicians were negligent in using findings of research laboratories even given the absence of hospitals in which to place their patients.  Examinations made by the Tennessee Valley laboratory during 1926, according to Dr. A. J. Perolio, the director, showed that 61.7 percent of all the physicians in the Valley were not using the services of the laboratory.  

In 1911 a specialty hospital was on the horizon.  Dr. McWhorter was in the area looking for a suitable location for the establishment of a tuberculosis sanitarium for the state and a state epileptic sanitarium. He was much impressed with the high altitude of Morgan County, saying this portion of the state should be free from consumption and kindred lung trouble.  

Perhaps it “should” have been free of TB, but it definitely was not.