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Akron General marks 100th-year anniversary

2/27/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Akron General Health System officials, state and local dignitaries, and guests and employees celebrated the hospital’s 100th birthday Feb. 20 with cake, shown above.
A group of people are pictured above enjoying cake in the lobby.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
In keeping with its mission to provide service to all and to extend access to health care, Akron General unveiled a mobile medical unit that will bring health screenings into the community. The Akron General Health & Wellness Express is pictured above and below.
Photos courtesy of Akron General Health System
DOWNTOWN AKRON — More than 100 years ago in Akron, a dozen doctors were having trouble getting their patients into the only hospital in town.

The physicians decided that 135 hospital beds for a population of about 175,000 that was growing fast were not enough. To address the problem, the doctors, along with leading members of the community, such as the Seiberlings, the Firestones and the Polskys, got together, and on Feb. 20, 1914, People’s Hospital was born offering 125 beds and with a core mission to provide “service for all.”

Over the years, the hospital has expanded in response to the needs of the community. It eventually became Akron General Hospital in 1954 and Akron General Medical Center in 1971 “to reflect the all-encompassing care and services provided throughout the community,” according to hospital officials. Today, the original mission of service to all continues in an organization that has become a major integrated health system providing comprehensive health services throughout Summit and Medina counties. In 2013, the hospital recorded 2,987 births and 26,565 admissions, according to hospital officials.

“History is important,” said Akron General President and CEO Dr. Thomas “Tim” Stover as he and Board of Directors Chairman Mark Lerner shared the story about the hospital’s genesis at a birthday celebration Feb. 20.

Stover said the hospital continues as a nonprofit today and does what it needs to do for its patients, and it does not allow the ability to pay to affect service. In fact, he said the decision to stay in step with the hospital’s core mission to provide service for all was one of the reasons that a proposed acquisition with Community Health Systems and the Cleveland Clinic failed recently.

One of the major changes for the hospital today is the focus on keeping people healthy and out of the hospital, which has resulted in initiatives such as the creation of the health system’s Health and Wellness Centers that offer not only primary care, hospital services and an emergency department, but also a medical fitness facility and related services, according to hospital officials.

Stover said that he has never seen as much change in the industry in his 35 years of working in the field as he has in the last 18 to 24 months, and he believes the health care industry will continue to change.

Lerner acknowledged the hard work of all employees and thanked the 619 volunteers who donated 74,000 hours in 2013, all of whom have contributed to the success of the hospital, he said.

Also celebrating the hospital’s centennial anniversary that day were Lt. Gov. and Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Summit County Executive Russ Pry and special guest and keynote speaker Laura Ingraham, a political conservative talk show host, as well as other state and local dignitaries, guests and employees.

Taylor congratulated the hospital for providing “high-quality care” and presented a proclamation from Gov. John Kasich to the hospital acknowledging the milestone.

Brown thanked the hospital for its group effort in serving the community.

Ingraham spoke out against the Affordable Care Act and talked about the need for change in the country’s culture and politics in Washington, D.C.

A planned ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil Akron General’s new Health & Wellness Express mobile unit after the speeches was canceled due to heavy rain.

According to hospital officials, the mobile unit, a customized 39-foot-long bus, is a multipurpose unit that is intended to improve access to health care services. It has two exam rooms and one testing station, and it offers health screenings, lab testing, physicals, occupational medicine, patient education and more to businesses, schools, churches and other organizations where there are large groups of people. Hospital officials said the mobile medical unit will expand its long-standing commitment to wellness and prevention.

For more information or to schedule a visit by the Akron General Health & Wellness Express, call 330-344-4BUS (287).

Visitors and employees at the celebration event also were treated to birthday cake after the speeches, and Akron General patients received a carnation to mark the day, according to hospital officials.

A special website dedicated to the 100th celebration, available at www.akrongeneral.org/100, includes a video about the “Akron General Difference” and gives community members an opportunity to share their memories and send video birthday greetings.

Officials plan to continue anniversary celebrations, which began with the renaming of Wabash Avenue to Akron General Avenue this past September, throughout the year, with a major community gala planned for Aug. 23.

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