Camden Courier-Post – May 19, 1964
By C. William Duncan
Cooper Hospital was incorporated the latter part of 1875, under the name of “The Camden Hospital,” changed to The Cooper Hospital in 1877. The hospital actually opened August 11, 1887.
Dr. Richard M. Cooper, who died in 1874, “may well be recognized as its founder,” say a hospital history, because of his intense work in its behalf. William D. Cooper, a prominent Camden attorney and brother of Richard, carried on until he died in 1875.
Two sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth Cooper, and another brother, Alexander, gave the present site, plus $200,000, to be used for construction and operation of the hospital. The building was completed in 1877 but was not opened until a decade later because of insufficient funds. During the first 17 months, 370 bed patients were treated.
In 1907 the north wing containing maternity, women’s medical and operating departments opened. In 1911 the out-patient department and private floor building opened. East extension replaced outside porches in 1924.
In the 1920s the old laundry facilities were destroyed by fire and a separate laundry structure was built at the rear of the main building. In 1923 the east wing was extended to house a children’s ward and the upper floors became medical and surgical wards.
The Ann Canning building was completed in 1926, the gift of S. Canning Childs. During the depression years expansion stopped. In 1940 the Dorrance building was opened. This addition was given by the Campbell Soup Co. as a memorial to Dr. John T. Dorrance, a prominent figure in Camden industry. Hospital bed capacity was then 441.
New Program Started
A long term building program started in 1950. New quarters for the radiology department and administrative offices were built between Ann Canning and the original building. A premature nursery and recovery room for post-operative patients were added in 1954. In 1955 construction was completed on the food service building, delivery suite and laundry annex.
In 1958 with the aid of funds provided by the CHIEF drive, a Federal grant and a Ford Foundation grant, construction was started on the north and south wings off the Dorrance building. Completed in May of 1960, these wings provide the hospital with a more than 700 bed capacity, making it the largest, general nonprofit hospital in New Jersey.
Added features. included: Seven new operating rooms for a total of 12, two additional specialty equipped X-ray rooms, a prayer room, family-doctor consultation room, new Cooper Mart or coffee shop, lobby area, new and improved clinic areas, lounge and library for the medical staff, and a 34-bed intensive care unit. Modern Equipment
Cooper also has made huge strides in installing new and modern equipment, Robert Y. Garrett Jr., administrator, points out.
During World War II the hospital mobilized a corps of staff doctors and nurses known as the Cooper Unit which was attached to the U.S. Army Air Force in the Mediterranean area [as the 61st Station Hospital- Ed.]. The shortage of qualified nursing personnel resulted in the hiring of non-professionals such as practical nurses, aides, clerks, messengers and attendants, each given special on-the-job training. These forces since have become an important part in effective hospital care.
The women’s auxiliary, founded in 1919, has branched into 26 separate auxiliaries totaling more I than 1,400 members and has raised many thousands of dollars for the hospital. The women stage the annual Mart and Horse Show, the Charity Ball and numerous other events.
In 1887 government rules provided for a one-year course in nursing. This was extended to two years in 1893 and to three years in 1904. Fully approved by the New Jersey Board of Nursing the program is offered to 100 students
In 1956 the course for laboratory technology began with three students. The 18-month course now admits six students twice a year.
Cooper Hospital is approved for 18 interns. The internship is general-rotating in character and is approved by the American Medical Association. Cooper offers 16 residencies in gynecology, medicine, obstetrics, pathology, plastic surgery, pediatrics and general surgery. The Cooper Hospital School of X-Ray Technology was the first in South Jersey to win accreditation of the American Medical Association.
Newest additions to the hospital include the complete renovation of the main hallway, and a new office area in 1961 and a new pharmacy and emergency department in 1962. A new three-story service building is nearing completion. It will house an up-to-date laundry.
Cooper Hospital started a six-day week in 1962 which was increased to a seven-day week in 1963. All facilities are in operation now every day, including Xray, laboratory, physical therapy and operating rooms.
The achievements of the World War II unit are worthy of more than passing comment. The idea was born in the hospital’s staff room shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The result was the 61st Station Hospital, first civilian hospital group to be accepted by the War Department in World War II as a station hospital.
Before the next three years had passed the 61st treated an aided in the evacuation of more than 20,000 men wounded in combat in North Africa, Sicily and Italy.
Two of its nurses were killed in overseas accidents. Five enlisted men assigned to the unit were killed during a mass air raid in Italy. Nine members of the unit were awarded the Bronze Star. The unit received the War Department Meritorious Service Plaque and Certificate of Merit; the Presidential Unit Citation and three battle stars.