I don’t think we’re spoiled. But I do think it’s OK to reflect for just a moment and be grateful.
When ultimately I failed to gain ground on a bout with food poisoning at the end of the previous year, I was stretchered from where I live to the emergency room at Berkshire Medical Center. The ride took less than five minutes.
When I was still in single digits, I fell out of the car when someone opened the passenger side door against which I was resting. I fell out of the car and hit my head on the curb. I needed a few stitches. It happened in front of the former Curletti’s Market on Springside Avenue. Total driving time to the ER? About 3 minutes,
When I was 18, I broke my nose in a sandlot football game on the field behind Reid Middle School. I always thank Joe Albano when I see him for driving me down to the ER at BMC. Total drive time? About 2 minutes.
You get the idea. In fact, many of you I’m sure share similar stories. Our city has its share of problems, and for sure it could use a little of this and a little of that and a lot less of this and that. But we can boast of a working hospital, and for a city of our size, it’s certainly a blessing.
Those three trips to the ER took a combined 10 minutes. No hospital here, and I’m an hour to Albany and even a bit more to Springfield. What happened in North Adams was indeed tragic, and thankfully BMC is here to provide important levels of health care to North County residents who are now without their own hospital.
When companies study the Berkshires as a possible place to relocate, I’m sure they look at a hundred different things. But having a hospital squarely in the center of our city is a pretty big chip to play. I’m glad it’s there, and so are most of you.
Like I said, I don’t think we are spoiled. But it’s certainly all right once in a while to give thanks for the employment and services that BMC provides. The other option, when you think about it, is pretty scary. Just ask our neighbors to the north.
It’s astounding to think that at one time in the city’s history we actually could boast of having four working hospitals at the same time. Berkshire Medical Center began in 1875 in pretty much the same location and was first known as House of Mercy.
That initial year the hospital cared for a total of 22 patients. In 1949, the name changed to the more antiseptic Pittsfield General Hospital, and by the early 1950s its annual care included about 7,000 patients whose average stay was eight days.
St. Luke’s Hospital, long at its location on East Street, had its rather humble beginnings about 1916, when Bishop Thomas D. Beaven of the Roman Catholic dioceses in Springfield, bought property on Springside Avenue, It included a couple of farmhouses, and would also produce the city’s first nursing school.
The operating force that was the Sisters of Providence later secured property on East Street, and the new hospital broke ground in 1925.
Hillcrest Hospital, meanwhile, was founded in 1908, It was the baby of local surgeon, Dr. Charles Richardson, who established the private institution near the House of Mercy on North Street. It was Richardson’s contention that the needs of surgical specialists were not being met by the more general-duty hospitals.
Money left to the hospital in a will allowed the facility to move to the former Salisbury Estates property on outer West Street during the late 1940s.
Finally, the city also had Coolidge Memorial Hospital on its western perimeter near Lebanon Avenue, This facility was originally born out of a need to establish an anti-tuberculosis hospital, and it served as such in the early part of the 20th century. It eventually expanded its services before closing during the early part of the 1950s.
The history of hospitals in the city has left quite a legacy. What the future holds should prove to be equally interesting.
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.