New book chronicles the history of Grossmont Hospital
Historical photo of Grossmont Hospital, as featured in book published by The History Press
“Grossmont Hospital: A Legacy of Community Service” Now Available Online and In Local Bookstores
A book chronicling the history of Grossmont Hospital is now available for online ordering and in local bookstores starting in January 2018. The book, titled “Grossmont Hospital: A Legacy of Community Service,” documents the history of the La Mesa hospital, owned by the citizens of the East San Diego County region.
In early 1952, eastern San Diego County’s citizens voted overwhelmingly to establish the Grossmont Hospital District. Local civic leaders and physicians envisioned it as the vehicle for building a modern hospital to address the healthcare needs of their rapidly growing post-World War II communities. In August 1955, the district subsequently opened Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa. For the next 65 years, the institution grew to serve suburban and rural residents spread over the 750-square-mile district. In dealing with the daunting challenges of modern healthcare, the governing board entered a precedent-setting lease for hospital operations with San Diego-based nonprofit Sharp HealthCare in 1991. Historian James D. Newland has partnered with Grossmont Hospital and the Grossmont Healthcare District in chronicling the inspiring story of this iconic regional institution.
The 153-page book, published by The History Press, can be ordered online:
The History Press
“This book is really designed as a tribute to the vision and dedication of our community leaders from a previous generation to provide a public hospital both as a necessary healthcare provider as well as a manifestation of our region’s legitimacy as a modern community,” said author Newland. “It also illuminates how our local hospital has continued to survive and thrive in the ever-changing American healthcare industry. After reading this book, I’m hoping people will see how Grossmont Hospital is even more impressive than at first glance as a landmark publicly-owned community hospital.”
Newland, a longtime La Mesa resident steeped in city history, has authored other books on the histories of La Mesa and Mt. Helix. He is currently past-president of the La Mesa Historical Society and has served on the La Mesa Planning Commission since 2014.
“I’m very impressed with the details included in the book,” said Michael Emerson, Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) board president. “The book clearly shows how community involvement made the difference in making the hospital and healthcare district a reality. I enjoyed reading about the previous generation of community leaders who worked tirelessly behind the scenes after the end of World War II, and gave their time and energy to help the hospital make a lasting positive difference in our local community.”
GHD, an East County regional public agency, assisted Newland and the publisher with the book’s research, providing historical photographs and documents. Earlier this year, GHD, which serves as landlord of Sharp Grossmont Hospital, invited the public to submit old photographs, newspaper clippings, promotional materials and other historical documents, some of which were included in the book, GHD officials said. Several other local residents, including former and current doctors, GHD board members and Sharp HealthCare leaders, are listed as contributors.
Among the historical tidbits included in the book:
• In the early 1920s, when the cities of La Mesa and El Cajon were still young, a nearby parcel of land where Grossmont Hospital was identified by East County community leaders as the perfect location for a “District Hospital for the Back Country,” as stated in a local newspaper headline. Col. Ed Fletcher, founder of El Cajon’s Fletcher Hills community, offered to donate acreage for a hospital situated on an elevated ridge near the location of the motion picture Grossmont Studios.
• As a follow up to the first efforts in 1921, another attempt to build a community hospital gained steam in 1928, only to be halted by the 1929 Great Depression.
• In 1949, two community groups, the Suburban Hospital Association and the La Mesa Hospital Association, merged to form the Grossmont Hospital Association (GHA). The main purpose of GHA was to oversee the funding and construction of a new hospital and subsequent hospital district.
• A special election was held on Jan. 8, 1952, to form the Grossmont Hospital District. With the possible cost of the hospital being over $1.2 million, only a state-sanctioned public agency with taxation and bonding abilities could cover the costs to build such a modern facility. On Election Day, volunteers manned more than 40 polling places. Transportation and babysitting services were offered to ensure participation by all eligible voters. East County voters approved the measure, 3,835 to 1,030.
• In 1952, state funds to build Grossmont Hospital were delayed and diverted to California’s Central Valley for hospital repairs following a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that hit Bakersfield on July 21.
• In 1955, the hospital’s first patient was eight-pound, three-ounce Randy George Callas, who was born 30 minutes before opening day. On the first day of operations, the hospital had 24 admissions, including four surgeries and five births.
Retail price for “Grossmont Hospital: A Legacy of Community Service” is $21.99. The Charleston, S.C.-based publisher is one of the nation’s largest publishers of local and regional content. Its website states: “By empowering local history and culture enthusiasts to write local stories for local audiences, we create exceptional books that are relevant on a local and personal level and bring readers closer to their community.”