The Beginning of the Medical Center
Part III ( continued from Part II )
With the help of State Health Commissioner Albert Heustis, Dr. Luton was located and became our doctor in 1956. He was a wonderful man, one of the last old-time family physicians, but he was already 77 when he took up his duties. He had delivered over 3,000 babies in Clinton County, and he was ready to deliver a few more here. He was a good fit in the community, even playing the role of our doctor for a film made in 1961 (with Skip as both the efficient nurse and an expectant mother) used to recruit his replacement.
When he gave up the post in June of 1961, the search committee located a young doctor, Sidney Schochet ("Sooshay") of the Soo, a graduate of Tulane. He was highly qualified, having done post-grad work in obstetrics and taught in various medical schools. He arrived in September of 1961. The reason not much is known about him is that he left eight months later. As we all know, the Island is not for everyone.
Discouraged with the young, the Island again turned to the experienced, and lucked out with the arrival of Dr. Haynes --compared to Dr. Luton, a spring chicken at 71. Besides being a top medic, he had a sharp wit, and told wonderful stories. Perhaps he was best known for delivering the Morlock Quadruplets during his 25 years at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing: their mother was so exhausted that the task of naming four kids was beyond her, so they opened it up to the public via a radio contest. For years the lucky winners could boast, "Yes sir, I named one of the Morlock quads. Did it all by myself."
When Doctor Haynes gave way to Doctor Christie, the rules and regulations were changing. For the first time a Medical Center Board was appointed to oversee the Medical Center. Its extensive by-laws were adopted in January of 1975, with Bud McDonough serving as the first President. Their goal was to have a contract with the doctor (under which he was paid over $7,500 a year!) and to obtain county and state funding. With the help of Ralph Ostling and Bob Davis they went after $75,000 to cover the next five years' oiperating costs, and established, in 1979, a tough fee schedule: Emergency Room work, $15; Surgical Procedures, $50; Office Visits, from $7 to $35, depending on the degree of severity; $20 for an X-ray and $25 for an EKG; $10 for Physical Therapy; and 15% over wholesale for the drugs they dispensed. Meg (Works) McDonough was hired as the first Administrative Assistant in 1979 for $4 an hour, and the preceptor program was begun.
But the building was too small. In 1976, with the help of retired engineer Ray Howell, an addition to the north side was designed and put out on bids. Bing McCafferty got the job for $14,000, plus $900 for a septic system, $2,000 for wiring (to Bill Bellows), $1,200 for a furnace (to Island musician Ed Sobie), $1,600 for a concrete ramp (to Dick Burris), and a few other extras. A fund-raising committee was formed and sprang into action, contacting well over a thousand people. By September of 1978 they had raised $34,000, enough to also buy a better X-ray machine. Now they were able to court mainland dentist Doctor Porter, who arrived in 1983 and hired and trained Ruthie Gregg as his assistant.
Unfortunately, Doc Christie's heart was stronger than his body. During his time as a medical missionary in Africa he had contracted diseases that could only be held back temporarily and not cured. As he weakened, the search committee located Doctor Siudara and convinced him to step in. The two of them collaborated on the delivery of Kitty Cull's baby, and then the man in the white jacket changed once again. When Doctor Siudara retired in 1985, the days of having an Island doctor gave way to the post being manned by a Nurse Practitioner: Mike McGinnity. Except for Doctor Lange standing in for Mike during the Gulf War, that's the system we've had to this day. But now that we're entering the age of telemedicine, mainland doctors are no longer so far away.