A Long and Healthy Life
How Cape Cod Hospital evolved from a house with an “Accident Room” to the state-of-the-art medical powerhouse it is today
One of the great benefits of living on or visiting Cape Cod is the excellent medical care available here. Cape Cod Hospital, located in Hyannis, has one of the busiest Emergency Centers in Massachusetts year-round and is the busiest hospital in the state during summer months. This not-for-profit medical center sees over 85,000 patients annually with more than 1,700 employees and 300 physicians on staff.
Charles Lincoln Ayling, a successful and philanthropic businessman from nearby Centerville, founded and served as the first president of the hospital. Van Northcross, regional marketing director of Cape Cod Hospital, explains what motivated Ayling to found the institution.
“There was a famous winter storm in 1919 off the coast of Harwich that resulted in some badly injured sailors who were put on a train to go to the nearest medical facility, which was in Boston,” says Northcross. “Ayling got on the train in Hyannis to make a business trip to Boston, saw these sailors, and decided right then and there it was time the Cape had its own hospital.”
In 1920, Ayling met with a few members of the Hyannis Board of Trade, and together they put up $35,000 to buy a house, previously the summer residence of Dr. Edward F. Gleason, to serve as the hospital site. The three-story wooden frame building contained 14 beds and two cribs. In 1920, Cape Cod Hospital opened its doors.
The new hospital admitted 130 patients and 23 accident cases between July and October in 1922. Northcross explains, “In those days, they didn’t have docs who are specialized like they are now… and we didn’t have an emergency room. They called it the ‘Accident Room.’” The board soon voted to construct the Charles L. Ayling Wing, which opened in 1924, bringing the total number of beds in the hospital to 45.