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Our History: A Little History Behind Douglas Memorial Hospital

There was a time here in Douglas County when women didn’t have a choice. All babies were born at home during a time when medical care during the entire nine months wasn’t given like it is now.

This story deals with the death of a mom who lobbied heavily for home birth in Australia, and then died following her own home birth, this story provides more information including reader comments. One thing the articles don’t provide is more information regarding the cause of death. While it’s very easy to say her choice to give birth at home killed her... that just isn’t necessarily so. We have no knowledge regarding her health condition leading up to the birth or many other variables that can come into play in any situation. 

One reader commented that even though the majority of women give birth in hospital settings these days, we still have women that die in the hospital.

True.

Every birth has a unique set of variables where many things can happen no matter where the mother gives birth.

This story does hit home with me. 

My second child….my dear daughter….was born at home in 1993.  

Yes, it was on purpose.  

Yes, it was planned.

Yes, I had assistance, and yes…..I’m all for women having a choice regarding where and how they give birth.I didn’t choose to have a home birth lightly. I considered it for quite some time.

I actually had three certified midwives who assisted me. They didn’t just show up when the time came. I spent the entire nine months doing what many pregnant women do – I took vitamins, I had ultrasounds, I saw medical professionals, and I met with my midwife regularly. If it had been my first birth or if I had had complications during previous births I wouldn’t have even been considered for a home birth. 

Home birth worked for me. In 1993, hospitals were just beginning to relax some of the constrictions that had been in existence for years for women giving birth. I experienced the prevalent clinical atmosphere with the birth of my son in 1985 and didn’t want to repeat it.

Midwives take a major role in birthing centers now…..having family around the birth mother are prevalent now….getting the mother home as soon as possible are the norm.    In 1993, when I gave birth to my daughter things were still in transition regarding birthing options, and I wanted a different experience.

One area where mothers who give birth at home have absolutely no wiggle room…..or at least I didn’t... was pain management. I wasn’t even able to take an aspirin, but my recovery time afterward….my ability to get right back to caring for my family was much quicker than my first birth.  

Within an hour after Dear Daughter was born, I was in the shower, dressed and walked under my own power into the emergency room at Douglas General Hospital where a doctor did conduct a follow up exam to make sure everything was as it should be, and of course….I was closely monitored for the next few days as well as my daughter while we were at home.

Georgia’s midwives….those that work in hospitals and those who don’t……are all well trained. This website can provide more information regarding home birth here in Georgia. 

I’m just glad women have a choice.

There was a time here in Douglas County when women didn’t have a choice. All babies were born at home during a time when medical care during the entire nine months wasn’t given like it is now. Many babies were lost during pregnancy and during birth because we just didn’t know the things we are privy to today.

In fact, Douglas County history tells us that it was the death of yet another mother giving birth that finally…..finally spurred the community to build a local hospital.

The year was 1946. Medical care in Douglas County existed. We had doctors in private practice. I’ve written about a few of them here. Many surgeries were conducted on dining room tables, and all babies were born at home. One night in 1946 yet another mother died because there just wasn’t time to get her to the closest hospital in Atlanta.

The book, Douglas County, Georgia: From Indian Trail to Interstate 20 written by Fanny Mae Davis advises Mrs. Clyde (Alma C.) Gable can be credited for founding Douglas Memorial Hospital. This happened after she had spent the night aiding the local physician in delivering a baby where the young mother died because a trip to the Atlanta hospital could not be made in time.

The next day Mrs. Alma stood before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners in tears and pleaded with the commissioners to provide residents with a hospital. Thankfully the men agreed with Mrs. Alma and felt it was time as well and on May 9, 1946 the Douglas County Hospital Authority was formed with the following members – Dr. W.S. O'Neal, Guy Baggett, William Chatham, R.H. Hutcheson, A.H. Stockmar, W.D. Palmer, E.M. Huffine, J. Cowan Whitley, and A.A. Fowler, Sr.

Frank P. Dorris was instrumental in providing a location for the hospital via the American Legion. They donated the old Clover Mills School building located on 3.5 acres of land on Fairburn Road. You know the location today as the United Way.

The public donated money and labor to get the building ready to house a hospital. The cost for outfitting the building with the necessary wiring and plumbing was $22,716.66.

Most certainly a bargain considering today’s costs.

Douglas County Memorial Hospital opened its doors on April 1, 1948 with up to fifteen beds for immediately use….and just in time, too! Their first patient was five-year-old Richard Laird. He had a tonsillectomy. 

By April, 1949 the hospital had added five more beds and boasted 207 babies had been born within its walls. They had treated a total of 800 patients.

In 1950, the hospital had a new addition and the beds numbered 35….by 1965, the beds numbered 51.

In January, 1971 the hospital moved to its present location beginning as a 98 bed facility and costing $3,675,000. There would be enough space for 15 doctors on staff and 25 nurses. A medical complex consisting of four building was also built adjacent to the hospital. Construction was completed on the new hospital in 1974.

During 1985, Douglas Memorial Hospital treated 4,700 patients and the Emergency Room saw 15,000 people pass through their doors!

During the 1980s Katherine Gunnell was appointed to serve as Chairwomen of the Douglas County Hospital Authority. Her goal was to provide quality healthcare for the entire community. Mrs. Gunnell’s obituary published in the Douglas County Sentinel advises: [Mrs. Gunnell’s] goal was nearly thwarted in 1992 when Douglas General Hospital suffered from financial problems….An informal discussion in [a] church parking [lot] with Mr. Jim Fowler, a Cobb Hospital Board member, led to a key role in laying the foundation for the WellStar Healthcare System. This discussion led to meetings with Mr. Tom Hill, Cobb Hospital Administrator, who supported some kind of union between the hospitals and pitched it to his board. In a little over a month the two hospitals merged to form a buying cooperative. This successful effort led to the 1994 formation of the Promina Health Systems that included Douglas, Cobb, Kennestone hospitals, and others joined later.  In 1999, WellStar Healthcare System was formed from some of the hospitals in Promina. Today, WellStar, over 11,000 strong, meets the needs of many communities by utilizing state of the art equipment and nationally recognized physicians and staff. WellStar now serves over 600,000 people.

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