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Fifty Years Ago a Small Hospital Began Its Journey

January 16, 2008

Celebrating Half a Century of Service to Washington Township Residents

    When Dr. Conrad E. Anderson arrived in Fremont in 1952, Washington Hospital existed only in the minds of a group of local citizens. At the time, the closest hospitals were in the cities of Alameda and San Jose ῜ both about 25 miles from the Fremont area ῜ but this small group of civic-minded residents had already begun plans to build a 50-bed hospital to serve its community.

    As one of less than a dozen doctors that formed Washington Hospital’s first medical staff before its doors even opened, Dr. Anderson says he and his colleagues were presented with a unique opportunity to participate in the growth of a new hospital and a new community.

    "When I came to Fremont, there was already a medical staff at that time of about eight doctors and the hospital was still in the planning stage,” Dr. Anderson remembers. "The doctors that were here were able to contribute their own ideas about the construction of the hospital from their standpoint as medical practitioners. I became involved in the planning of the hospital and also later in the planning for the City of Fremont. It was an interesting time. Both the hospital and the city ended up opening at around the same time.”

    Dr. Anderson, who has lived with his family in the Niles area since 1952, said he has seen many changes over the years as the community has grown.

    "Washington Hospital at that time was a cauliflower field,” he recalls. "The main industry in this area was farming. There were apricots orchards and a significant amount of truck farming for produce such as cauliflower, carrots, cucumber and lettuce. In those days, I made a lot of house calls out on the farms and all around the city.”

    While the original hospital board had planned to build a 50-bed facility, it soon became apparent to Washington’s pioneers that population growth would require flexibility. They decided instead to build a 100-bed hospital, the first of many forward-thinking decisions the board would make to this day, according to Dr. Anderson. He said he credits the current board members and hospital’s leadership with maintaining the hospital’s original commitment to serving residents.

    The physical appearance of the area was not the only thing that has changed. Dr. Anderson says the face of medicine is also very different.

    "The practice of medicine in those days for me was very busy; you were pretty much on-call around the clock,” he says. "The doctors in the community would take turns on weekends, but we pretty much took care of our patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In Niles we had a big steel mill where we had a considerable amount of industrial injuries. Law enforcement was run by the county sheriff at that time and we had a volunteer fire department. We didn’t have doctors staffing the emergency room 24 hours a day the way it’s done now. For a number of years when the hospital first opened we rotated; one doctor from the community was on-call each day.”

    Because there were so few doctors, even the radiologists and pathologists that rarely dealt with live patients had to serve their time in the emergency room. Dr. Anderson chuckles at the memory, saying of the time: "We survived it.”

    In the years following World War II, before the wide range of medical specialties that exist now had exploded, family doctors like Dr. Anderson also took on the role of obstetrician, delivering many of the Tri-City area’s newborns before skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance made the practice uncommon.

    Dr. Anderson says the scarcity of local physicians in the early days of the hospital made cooperation and camaraderie the foundation of the medical staff. Since the beginning and into the present-day, Anderson has remained an active part of the health care community and the hospital. He still serves on Washington’s bio-ethics committee and participates on the five-member board of directors for the nonprofit Washington Township Hospital Development Corporation affiliated with Washington Township Health Care District.

    In 2001, the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at 2500 Mowry Avenue, across the street from the main hospital was unveiled. Dr. Anderson is modest, but says he felt privileged to serve as the namesake. Almost every week, Washington Hospital free community classes and programs are conducted in the auditorium’s rooms.

    Today, Washington Hospital is a 359-bed, acute-care general hospital. Since opening its doors, Washington Hospital Healthcare System has grown into a renowned regional medical center whose programs and facilities include:

·         Taylor McAdam Bell Neuroscience Institute

·         Washington Outpatient Imaging Center

·         Center for Joint Replacement

·         Washington Outpatient Surgery Center

·         Washington Outpatient Rehabilitation Center

·         Washington Radiation Oncology Center

·         Washington Women’s Center

·         The Institute for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery

·         Washington Outpatient Catheterization Laboratory

·         The Washington ῜ Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Special Care Nursery

·         Washington West, a 189,000-square-foot complex housing our Gamma Knife Center, Washington Women’s Center, Outpatient Imaging Center, Lymphedema Clinic, Richard M. Warren Nursing Skills Lab, Washington Clinic/Fremont, Little Washington Township Child Care Center and the free Community Health Resource Library and Health Insurance Information Service, and various hospital departments, including expanded cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation centers

The Future
    Washington Hospital has remained committed to providing District residents with the health care services they need. While maintaining fiscal responsibility, the hospital has continued to expand its programs and services to meet the needs of a diverse population.

    For a closer look at the hospital’s history and how its continued growth and development will benefit future generations, call the Community Relations Departments at (510) 791-3417 for a free copy of the 2007 Annual Report to the Community.