The Pawtucket General Hospital
Memorial Hospital was chartered more than a century ago by the Pawtucket Business Men's Association as "The Pawtucket General Hospital" to provide quality health care to the people of the Blackstone Valley region regardless of their ability to pay. The hospital was funded by a $200,000 gift from William F. Sayles, a founder of the Saylesville Finishing Plant in Lincoln, after his death in 1894. Memorial has grown from a 30-bed institution that admitted two patients its first day, to a sprawling 13-acre teaching institution affiliated with The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University with 294 beds and three satellite primary care center facilities in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts. It is the site of the Alpert Medical School’s teaching programs in internal and family medicine, and operated a school of nursing for 70 years.
Commitment to the community has helped fuel Memorial's dynamic growth through the decades, from the construction of a private wing for 23 patients constructed in 1918 for just $50,975 to the opening of the spectacular $12.6-million Sayles Building in 1987.
The hospital continuously expanded to meet the needs of the community and to house various new departments and clinics. In 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, Memorial opened a pediatrics/maternity unit using a $200,000 donation from Mr. and Mrs. James R. MacColl in memory of their daughter, Margaret. The unit, named after the family, added 44 beds for children and 25 for maternity. Two decades later, in 1951, workers completed a two-story named the Richardson Building after an original trustee, E. Russel Richardson, who left a trust fund of $285,000 when he died in 1931.The building added 56 beds, bringing the hospital's total bed count to 214.
A critical year in Memorial’s history was 1965, which saw the opening of the Harold W. Wood Building and a launch of an ambitious modernization and expansion program that continued for more than 20 years and enlarged the physical appearance and size of the main campus to its current size. The seven-story Wood Building provided Memorial with 150 new medical, surgical and maternity beds. The building also featured a new emergency department, x-ray facility and cafeteria. Named for the long-time treasurer and president of the hospital, the Wood project cost $3.8 million. Of that, $1.3 million, $300,000 more than expected, was donated by the community.
Phase two of the modernization program, the Dr. Percy Hodgson Building, was dedicated next to the Wood Building in 1976. The building, named after the president of the Board of Trustees, cost $8 million, of which $4 million was pledged by members of the community and hospital staff. Inside was a new operating theatre with eight operating rooms, a pharmacy, and space for transportation and central processing. In addition, there were 80 modern patient rooms, including those in the new intensive care and coronary care units.
In 1985, phase three of modernization was the $1.7-million Ambulatory Care Center. The 16,000-square foot center serves as the central facility for outpatient services and was the first part in a $14.3-million construction and renovation program. Housed there are such services as mammography, x-ray, blood screening and other laboratory testing. The remainder of the money, $12.6 million, was used for the new Sayles Building, completed in September 1987.
Twenty years later, in 1999, hospital physicians and administrators made a visible commitment to the concept of primary medicine with the opening of the Center for Primary Care.
Research Coexists with Treatment
Memorial Hospital has enjoyed a blended relationship between treatment of the ill, medical education and research since the very beginning. John F. Kenney, MD, who came to the hospital in 1914 and later served as chief of the medical service until 1946, pioneered the concept of in-house medical education here and lent his enthusiasm to generations of doctors.
The most obvious evidence of Memorial’s dedication to education is its affiliation with the Alpert Medical School. Created in 1969, the relationship has brought thousands of the best young medical students, interns, residents and research fellows in the world through the hospital's doors for study and to practice. Memorial is the second largest teaching hospital in the state, with the majority of the full-time medical staff affiliated with the medical school, and dozens of residents in various specialties working here.
The hospital is home to Brown's Family Medicine and Internal Medicine residency programs, through which staff physicians teach medical residents about rehabilitation and restorative care. This infusion invigorated Memorial's medical research endeavors. Today, more than 50 research projects supported by millions of dollars in federal and grant funds, ranks the hospital among the top research hospitals in Rhode Island.