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A Long and Healthy Life

Cape Cod Hospital, 1979

Cape Cod Hospital expanded its premises quite a bit after World War II.

After World War II, the hospital underwent a major transformation. Northcross says that in 1950, Cape Cod Hospital opened its iconic main building, which contained the first real emergency room. The Ayling Wing was retained and remodeled, and the original hospital building was torn down. Normal capacity increased to 105 beds. The hospital now had three operating rooms, three labor rooms, a complete outpatient department, four X-ray machines, and a pharmacy.

Every year, the hospital saw a significantly increased number of admitted patients. By 1960, a $1.6 million addition was in the works; the hospital also received a grant of $350,000 at the time under the Hill-Burton Act, a U.S. federal law passed in 1946 designed to provide federal grants and guaranteed loans to improve the physical capital of the nation’s hospital system. In 1963, the new South Wing, which included eight intensive care unit beds, opened as well.

Cape Cod Hospital continued to grow in response to the needs of the area. In 1969, a Coronary Care Unit opened to mark the 50th anniversary of the hospital. The Whitcomb Pavilion opened in 1971, with a new addition in 1978. The Radiation Therapy Center opened in the spring of 1980.

Mary Clancy, a former staff nurse at the hospital between the years 1968 and 1994, remembers that even as the hospital was growing, the hospital staff was notably smaller than it is today. “In the daytime, in the emergency room, we would have two or three nurses working,” she says. “We didn’t even have anyone serving a night shift. We had to wait for the night supervisor to come in and take our place.”

The current emergency department of Cape Cod Hospital opened in the fall of 1993. The number of E.R. visits in that year rose to around 52,000. This year, in 2011, E.R. visits will top 90,000. Northcross discusses the mammoth increase in traffic at the hospital these days: “Between 1993 to 2007, in the current emergency room that opened in the fall of 1993, we saw 1,000,000 patients,” says Northcross. “We’re the busiest hospital in Massachusetts in warm weather months, and that includes Mass General and Boston City. This year, we’ll top 90,000 emergency room visits.”

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