Looking Back with Aurore Eaton: Manchester's Elliot Hospital grows, evolves
In the first few months after the Elliot Hospital’s opening in April 1890 blinds were installed in the windows, the grounds were improved, and a horse and three milk cows were purchased. The animals grazed on the hospital grounds, and trees and gardens on the property provided fruits and vegetables for the patients. A two-story barn was built that could store 15 tons of hay, and a carriage house was constructed. Also, a morgue was built next to the barn.
In the early days the average length of stay for a patient was 43 days, as hospitals during this time also served as rehabilitation facilities. It cost about $13 dollars a week to care for a patient, with about $8 of this billed to the patient. The total expense to run the hospital in 1891 was $10,981.76. The hospital’s assets, including cash, stocks, buildings and land amounted to $76,204.43. The hospital received generous contributions of cash, and gifts of food, pillows, linens, and a wheelchair. Several rooms were furnished through donations from individuals, churches, businesses and clubs. Four free beds were provided for patients in need, sponsored by the City of Manchester, a private donor, and the Ladies Auxiliary Board.
The Ladies Auxiliary Board was a group of 32 dedicated women. These volunteers visited the hospital nearly every week. According to the Elliot’s first annual report (for the year ending December 31, 1891), they found “…that these visits help very much in keeping up our interest in the hospital and its work, and no member has ever complained when her turn came for the duty. The patients are exceedingly grateful for any kindness shown them in these visits by the ladies, and have always expressed themselves so warmly for the treatment received from those in charge of them, that we feel sure they are well cared for.”
The Auxiliary held its first fundraising event in April 1891. This was an afternoon tea at the Masonic hall where “a large sum of money was realized.” In June 1891 the group organized a garden party for families “in the grove at the hospital.” The income from this event, along with numerous small donations made by local children, was dedicated to providing a free bed in the hospital for a needy child. The Auxiliary eventually became the Elliot Hospital Associates, which continues to raise funds for the organization today. For many years the Associates also administered the hospital’s volunteer programs, which are now under the auspices of the Elliot Hospital Volunteers.
Soon after the hospital opened, its doctors began giving lectures on medical science. This led to the founding of the nursing school, which graduated its first students in 1892. The school would operate until 1977. The Elliot became known for pioneering the latest medical techniques. In 1920, it became the first hospital in New Hampshire to use radiation treatment for cancer, and the Elliot was also an early leader in X-ray technology and in diabetes care.
Over the years the Elliot Hospital expanded to meet the needs of a growing population and incorporate advances in medical technology. By 1915 the hospital had 43 beds — 17 private rooms, two wards containing seven beds each, and a maternity wing with 12 beds. The hospital also had a residential building for nurses and an operating pavilion. By 1924 the Elliot had beds for 75 patients. The number of beds didn’t increase, but by 1947 the Elliot was caring for over 10,000 patients a year (about half of them outpatients), and it had a constant waiting list of over 60 people. Over $1,600,000 was raised to fund an expansion project that was completed in 1953. This effort included the construction of a new main hospital building. A $14,250,000 expansion and building improvement project was completed between 1975-1978. Three new buildings were constructed and renovations were made to existing structures. Today, the main hospital building is an acute care facility with 296 beds.
The Elliot Hospital campus in East Manchester is the cornerstone of Elliot Health System, which serves southern New Hampshire. The Elliot’s latest expansion project was the construction of the Elliot at River’s Edge Ambulatory Care Center on Queen City Avenue in Manchester, which opened in 2011.
Next Week: A Valley Cemetery story — The Harrington family and the Manchester Opera House..
Aurore Eaton is executive director of Manchester Historic Association; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org