Text Source: Syracuse and Its Environs, by
Franklin H. Chase, Lewis Historical Pub. Co., Chicago, IL, 1924, pg.
The Onondaga Sanatorium, a/k/a
Amidst the tragedy of the need
for a tuberculosis hospital came the tragedy of man's inhumanity of
making politics pay. Despite the scandals and charges of graft in
the erection of the sanatorium near Hopper's Glen to the southeast of
the city, there stands to-day one of the best and most advanced
hospitals of its kind in the State. Expert medical management has
built upon the stigma of supervisorial committee graft in
construction, the nobility of the public hand to aid the afflicted.
The real movement for the sanatorium began in June, 1909. During
the four years' discussion it was figured that six hundred and
ninety-four people died from tuberculosis, who might have been aided
and some of them saved from the dread disease if such a sanatorium as
stands to-day had been built. There was a dispute about the
location. Politics was in the game early. There was never
any question in the architectural end of the construction, which was
looked after by Taylor & Bonta of Syracuse. There was
$154,000 appropriated for the work, but the sanatorium when formally
placed in charge of the Board of Managers on October 2, 1916, had cost
the county approximately $600,000.
It was in 1915 that rumors of "graft" in the building of the sanatorium
began to spread. The records of the Board of Supervisors for that
year show appropriations for investigations. The story was told
in brief when, on June 5, 1916, the Supervisors' Committee recommended
that the bronze tablet containing the names of the original building
committee, cast at a cost of $190, be sold for $24 for junk and not put
up on the building. It cost the county $4,648 to bring back and
put in prison the absconding supervisor, and a trail of suicide and
grand jury indictments followed.
But out of that muck heap of graft blossomed one of the fairest lilies
of hospital endeavor in Syracuse. Ten days after the sanatorium
went into the hands of the Board of Managers in 1916, Superintendent
Dr. H. J. Brayton sent for patients. While those buildings were
designed to care for but seventy-eight, there were several
occasions in that first year when there were more than one hundred
patients in the sanatorium. In that first year there were three
hundred and ninety-nine applications for admission and three hundred
and two admitted. Nearly twelve per cent paid in part for their
care, a sum that came to more than $2,000. The second year there
was an average of one hundred and three patients a day. That
first board of managers consisted of Dr. A. Clifford Mercer, president;
S. C. Cheney, Drs. William J. Mulheran and T. H. Halsted and E. G.
Edgerton. Dr. V. M. Parkinson was assistant physician and Miss A.
M. Harlfinger matron and head nurse.
Early in the establishment of the sanatorium, Mrs. John H. Tallman took
up the work of bringing comforts and entertainment to the patients,
and, when the Auxiliary was formed in 1919, Mrs. Tallman was made its
first president. The building for the treatment of children
suffering from tuberculosis was begun in 1920, and that is one of the
important departments of the work to-day.
County Medical Society, 1906-1956, The
Onondaga County Medical Society?, Syracuse? 1956, pp. 67-69.
Apparently the idea of Onondaga
Sanatorium had its inception in 1909 when a deputation of anxious
citizens crowded the County Court House and made a plea for a hospital
to "confine" the ever increasing number of tuberculosis patients.
Dr. D. M. Totman, Public Health Officer, and Mr. J. Strong, Secretary
for the Associated Charities of the County revealed a progressive death
rate from the disease. They said that in 1908 alone there were
219 deaths in the County from tuberculosis. Syracuse was already
a pioneer in the field of tuberculosis detection having, in 1908,
opened the first tuberculosis clinic in Upstate New York under the
auspices of the Bureau of Health with Dr. H. Burton Doust in
charge. In 1913 the County presented to the Board of Supervisors
a set of plans ad $37,000 was set aside for purchase of land and
$30,000 for building. In 1913-1914 excavation started. In
April 1915, Dr. Harry Brayton received the appointment of
The Onondaga Sanatorium, located in the Town of Onondaga, received its
first patient in 1916. The plant has been somewhat enlarged since
that time from the original 100 beds to the maximum of 260 beds, the
last building having been opened in 1928. The bed capacity, at
present, 240. The Sanatorium functioned under the County until
April 1948 at which time, at the request of Onondaga County, the State
of New York, Department of Health, Division of Tuberculosis, acquired
ownership. The functions of the hospital are the segregation,
medical and surgical treatment of patients, the provision of diagnostic
chest clinics, the teaching of medical personnel and cooperation in
research in tuberculosis and related diseases.
The more rapid turnover of patients has eliminated the long waiting
lists and now patients can be admitted on the basis of application
almost immediately. Other factors in this situation are the
remarkable decrease in both the incidence of, and mortality from,
tuberculosis both in Onondaga County and the nation at large; the use
of effective anti-tuberculosis drugs; the marvelous strides in thoracic
surgery related to tuberculosis; and the more effective public health
measures for detection. Tuberculosis, in general, is a
preventable disease and can, when properly treated, be cured.
The staff of the Onondaga Sanatorium is made up of a Director, seven
physicians, a dentist, 56 nurses, laboratory technicians, social
worker, clerical and housekeeping staff. The total number of
employees required to maintain the hospital is 195.
The changes in the tuberculosis problem as reflected by the work in a
tuberculosis hospital are, in part, evidenced by the fact that the
Children's Building is no longer used as such, a far cry from the days
of the "preventorium". Some old photographs are available of
older boys skiing down the adjacent hillsides in mid-winter clad only
in the equivalent of a baby's "three-cornered pants". The result
of heliotherapy, that is sunshine treatment, was incorporated in a book
written by Dr. Edgar Mayer. Work in heliotherapy at the Erie
County Sanatorium was attracting national attention in those days under
Dr. Horace LaGrasso who, in addition to his work with sunshine, was
making elaborate experiments with sun lamps.
In 1920 an x-ray department existed in the basement of the present
Men's Building, but it was out-of-order. A stack of glass plates
testified to the fact that work had been done. In October 1924
the x-ray department was reopened. From this start grew the
present x-ray department with stationary and portable equipment,
fluorographic equipment, electrocardiograph equipment and dark room and
storage facilities. Specialized planigrams have become almost
routine. In 1955 there were 12,866 x-ray examinations.
The laboratory is a vital part of the function of a tuberculosis
hospital. It has grown from a small part-time position to now
being headed by a qualified physician. Chemical, bacteriological,
histo-pathological and drug resistance tests are being carried on
daily. In spite of the work that the laboratory is able to do,
however, considerable work has to be referred to other laboratories and
to the Medical College.
Occupational therapy and patient education is emphasized. Three
Chaplains are on the staff, entertainment and movies are
featured. A hospital newspaper is published. Two school
teachers are on the staff. A nutrition program is under the
management of a full-time dietitian. The grounds are maintained
by a maintenance crew. The hospital maintains three automobiles,
three trucks, tractor and other motorized equipment. The
operating budget for 1955 was $978,000. Students from the Medical
College have some of their work at the Onondaga Sanatorium. Other
professional and lay-teaching is carried on. A regular in-service
training program with scheduled open meetings is held.
The past two generations have seen the greatest strides in the field of
public health in recorded history. John Bunyan once referred to
"consumption" as "Captain of the Men of Death". Indeed, for many
years and in many parts of the world, tuberculosis led all other
infectious diseases as the cause of death. It is still a serious
public health hazard and we must continue to have tuberculosis
hospitals and we must continue to have tuberculosis control measures.
Text Source: A
Short History of Hospitals in Syracuse, SUNY
Upstate Medical University: Health Services Library:
The creation of Onondaga Sanatorium was approved by the County in 1913
in reaction to a popular movement, begun locally in 1909, to segregate
tuberculosis patients from the rest of the community. In 1908 H. Burton
Doust, M.D., had opened the first tuberculosis clinic in Central New
York, but his efforts were not sufficient to deal with the problem,
since, in that year alone, 219 people died from tuberculosis in
Onondaga County. Construction of the new sanatorium continued through
1914; Harry Brayton, M.D., was named superintendent in 1915; and the
first patient was admitted in 1916. In 1948 the New York State
Department of Health, Division of Tuberculosis, took over the
administration of the sanatorium from Onondaga County.
Submitted 14 March 2006 by Pamela