By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: Author and historian James D. Newland with his book, Grossmont Hospital: A Legacy of Community Service
August 19, 2018 (La Mesa)—Author and historian James D. Newland’s latest book, Grossmont Hospital: A Legacy of Community Service, provides a fascinating look into the colorful history of East County as well as the hospital itself and the evolution of healthcare in our region.
Newland was honored Thursday at the Grossmont Healthcare District headquarters with a reception attended by the district’s board of directors and community VIPs. Following appetizers and brews served up by Burning Beard brewery, the district’s CEO Barry Jantz and board president Michael Emerson gave welcoming remarks.
Newland signed copies of his book, noting that the biggest challenge in its creation was handling the controversy over the hospital merging with Sharp Healthcare, a move that kept East County’s major hospital financially viable at a time when rising costs drove some other healthcare facilities under.
Photo, right: Grossmont Healthcare District Board members Randy Lenac, Virginia Hall, Michael Emerson and Gloria Chadwick
The hospital broke ground in 1955 after voters approved creation of the Grossmont Healthcare District. But Grossmont Hospital’s origins date back far earlier. Colonel Ed Fletcher offered to donate land to build a hospital for East County as early as 1921, less than a decade after La Mesa and El Cajon incorporated as cities in 1912. But the project was derailed by other pressing issues including bringing water to the region via the Cuyamaca flume and later, World War II.
The post-war boom brought rapid growth to East County—and growing demand for a hospital as a point of civic pride, as well as meeting medical needs. Moreover, the population nationwide shifted from rural toward urban areas; by 1955 over 90 percent of babies were born in hospitals—and the post-war baby boom boosted demand for more hospital facilities.
In his preface, Newland, author of several local historical books, writes, “These public hospitals represented the promise to deliver all that was possible in modern medicine to their communities.”
Grossmont Hospital provides an example of the evolution of modern hospitals, fueled by federal and state legislative to fund their creation. Newland adds that the hospital's birth and growth "also represented the American hospital’s transformation from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century almshouse and indigent care facility to twentieth-century bastion of science-based treatment from the most educated, highly trained and professional physicians with the latest in equipment and technique."
Today, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and the Grossmont Healthcare District continue to serve a vast 750-acre across East County, providing healthcare to millions of local residents and making investments to support healthcare and public safety across our region (including support for our East County Wildfire and Emergency Alerts) while continuing to enhance the hospital with state-of-the-art new facilities and equipment in the 21st century.
Photo, above left: Grossmont Healthcare District Board President Michael Emerson; right: GHD Chief Executive Officer Barry Jantz