A Heritage of Loving Service: The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in Tucson
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Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J

Chapter II Modern Medical Complex
The Central Wing

Before the hospital could be enlarged, a great need for hospital beds led to the shortening of the patient's stay in the hospital. Days were cut to the minimum until the hospital cared for almost twice as many patients as before. More beds, however, were still needed, and under the Administration of Sister Anne Lucy Zieroff (1947 - 1953), plans were made for a new Central Building. Adequate space had to be provided for Surgery where 3,825 operations were performed during the year in overtaxed facilities. More room was needed for the Clinical Laboratory Department so that its services could be expanded and necessary equipment installed. Radiology was also in need of expansion, as it was called upon to perform more and more diagnostic services. Especially needed were an electroencephalograph machine and a new photoroentgen unit which would make possible the early detection of tuberculosis, lung cancer, and pulmonary diseases. A place would also have to be provided as a center for the storage and distribution of radioactive medications. New areas had to be planned for the Physical Therapy Department, for an enlarged Pharmacy, for office and business space, for a new Dietary Department, and for a staff meeting room. Maternity, the birthplace of 1,000 babies a year, would have to increase its total of 356 bassinets to at least 50 in order to meet the minimum demand.

Construction of the new nine-story building was begun in 1948 and completed in 1951. The Central Wing did furnish the much needed room for expansion. St. Mary's of 1947 contained 120 beds. With the new wing and conversion of areas in the old wings, enough beds were added to bring the number to 375. The Medical Library which was utilized by Medical Staff, interns and residents, and student nurses was also expanded.

In the operating rooms on the sixth floor where oxygen and other gases were constantly in use, a new static-proof floor protected against the possibility of an electric spark. There was a special cysto-surgery area with its own X-ray machines, and portable X-ray equipment could be brought into the orthopedic surgery room to check on the alignment of bones and the placement of internal pins and devices. Tissue samples could be sent to the seventh floor laboratory and a report could be back in five minutes. Blood to offset the effects of surgical shock was also readily available.

With the new building came new techniques and procedures. Surgery that would have been impossible with ether alone could now be done with a mixture of ether and oxygen and other new anesthetic gases. The new methods allowed the patient to be kept under anesthesia longer and more safely than was heretofore possible. The newest thing in surgery was an electric device that shocked the heart back into regular rhythm.

The Nursery Department had 18 incubators for babies who were prematurely born. Three pressure-locks assisted babies who had difficulty in breathing. Pediatrics took in those infants not delivered in St. Mary's, separating them to prevent the spread of possible outside infection. These innovations added much to what had been accomplished in the preceding decade relative to the care of mothers and babies in the Delivery Rooms and Nurseries of the hospital. In 1953, St. Mary's could report 2,500 live births during the year with no maternal deaths.

In the late thirties, the first iron lung in Southern Arizona was donated to the hospital. It was a gift of the doctors and businessmen of Tucson. By the early fifties, oxygen therapy was a major service, especially during the winter season for the elderly victims of pneumonia. Oxygen tents and various types of nasal oxygen equipment were in use under the charge of an oxygen therapy technician.

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