Grove City Medical Center Marks 40 Years of Caring to Make a Difference
For a small community, Grove City has never been short on big ideas. And, 40 years ago, national headlines were made here when its people came up with an enterprising way to solve a modern-day dilemma, while determined to keep healthcare local.
Up until that time, Grove City was home to two healthcare facilities, Grove City Hospital and Bashline Memorial Hospital, neither of which could fill its beds. Both hospitals were founded in the early 1900s. “Looking back, it is hard to believe they both managed to sustain as long as they did,” said Robert Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Grove City Medical Center.
The obvious solution was the same then as it is today: merge. But, for these two particular institutions, that option wouldn’t be quite so simple, for they practiced medicine under two very different philosophies. Grove City was staffed with allopathic physicians (M.D.’s) while Bashline was staffed by osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s), and the people in the community were staunchly loyal to one or the other.
In 1978, longtime Grove City resident and future chair of the hospital board of directors Alvin Schell summed it up for a news reporter from the Wall Street Journal: “You were a Republican or you were a Democrat. You went to an osteopath or you went to a medical doctor.”
Despite the strong feelings among the townspeople, the boards of directors for both hospitals initiated studies in 1976 to see if a merger was feasible—or possible. Separately, Grove City and Bashline hospitals were operating at barely 54 percent capacity. Services were being duplicated. A research summary noted: “Neither could get government approval for capital improvements needed to meet state and professional safety and health codes.”
The message was clear, and in the end, the people and the physician groups of Grove City set aside their biases, and supported the merging in 1978 of the two hospitals into one. Local residents participated in a campaign to name the new hospital “United Community Hospital,” and in November, 1981 the new 128-bed, $13.8 million facility opened its doors to the community. As hospital officials turned over shovelfuls of dirt at the groundbreaking a year and a half earlier, keynote speaker Dr. Robert Rinehimer, president of Pennsylvania Blue Shield, referred to them as “heroes” for their valiant efforts to preserve community-based healthcare for all the right reasons.
At the time of the merger, United Community Hospital’s physician staff was comprised of 15 medical doctors and 11 doctors of osteopathy. Today, close to half of the physicians on staff at Grove City Medical Center are D.O.’s. What was once described as the “often bitterly contentious” relationship between the osteopathic and allopathic medical professions by the Association of American Medical Colleges, has evolved into a mutually respectful physician culture at GCMC.
Along with manipulating the body for proper alignment and blood flow, a basic tenet of osteopathic medicine is treating the body as a whole. Thus, as the medical community has adopted a more holistic approach to treating disease and illness in recent years, the line that once divided allopathic and osteopathic physicians has blurred significantly.
The official anniversary of the merger is April 15, however, Grove City Medical Center is planning a variety of activities throughout the year to commemorate the historic event. “We owe much to the forward thinking hospital and physician leadership of our past,” said Jackson. “Thanks to them, Grove City Medical Center remains an important community asset, dedicated to caring for those who need us.”