How times have changed

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

When Gerald Wages joined the staff of the hospital in 1969, there were about 35 doctors, 600 employees and 300 patient beds in the hospital. A night in the hospital cost $25. It was still the hospital on the hill focused on caring for people in Lee County.
The hospital’s computer for billing was as big as a room and used punch cards.
“It had 12K of memory,” Wages said. “Your telephone would dwarf that computer.”
The simplest test or procedure meant at least one night in the hospital.
“People came in the hospital for diagnostic care,”Wages remembered.
Now there are 6,000 employees in the system that covers six hospital campuses with 849 acute care beds and 35 medical clinics and is supported by some 450 physicians serving 700,000 people in 24 counties. People in the region have access to specialists who were only available at large academic research hospitals in 1969.
The hospital has an electronic health record system that gives medical staff access to information and images in every hospital and clinic. Most patients are taken care of as outpatients.
“If we still practiced health care the way we did in the 1970s, we’d need 3,000 beds,” Wages said.

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