The "Spanish Flu" epidemic of 1918 killed more people than the first world war during its global run. The Tri-Cities wasn't spared "La Grippe," and it had an impact on the history of Our Lady of Lourdes. Here is another installment in the history of the hospital published on Feb. 28, 1949 and written by the Tri-City Herald staff.
A flu-pneumonia epidemic showed need for good hospital facilities. So the question of building a new and larger hospital became a community matter. A hospital board was formed, and agreed to raise $15,000 toward and $80,000 building.
Next was the question of a site, and this was taken up with the Northern Pacific, still one of the largest landowners in the west.
Dr. Hamley and Mother Borgia conducted the negotiations, and in the end the railway company sold an entire block to the Sisters for one dollar. This land not only provided for the existing hospital building, but will accommodate as will the new million-dollar health center now planned. An area-wide campaign for funds to help construct the new building now is being organized and will open next month.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Ground was broken July 12, 1920, for the present 55-bed hospital building, and the cornerstone was laid August 28. Then the contractor found himself in trouble putting down a firm foundation, due to the ground structure. The difficulty was overcome — but when the building was finished it had cost $140,000 instead of $80,000.
Confronted with bills they could not pay, the Sisters cut corners. The fourth floor was left unfinished for a considerable time. It didn't make too much difference; there were no more epidemics, and the hospital seldom needed any more space than the other floors provided. There was little departmentalization in those days — no separate children's ward, not even a separate maternity ward.
Nevertheless, Our Lady of Lourdes was approved in 1922 by the American College of Surgeons as a Class A hospital, and that approval has been continuously renewed ever since. Today, Lourdes is the only Class A hospital open to the public in this area. Spokane, Walla Walla, and Yakima are the nearest other open Class A hospitals. Kadlec at Richland is Class A, but its patient list is restricted.
The new hospital building enjoyed at first, natural isolation. There were almost no houses between the hospital and Lewis Street. Construction of the first until of the high school, a block away, started the winter after the hospital opened, however, and railroad people began building along the first three or four north avenues.
The Sisters still laugh at the plight of one of their number who, exploring the new hospital building, decided the roof would be a wonderful place to dry clothes. When she went back to get them, however, they were gone — and for the next day amused residents brought back to the hospital various segments of the Sister's washing — to her embarrassment. The winds had scattered her laundry fairly all over town.
But gradually, conditions improved. The third year there was a lawn, and trees began to take root and grow. Someone wanted to set out weeping willow trees, but Sister Patricia, now the oldest at the hospital in point of years in service in Pasco, refused to permit them. She wanted, she said, trees that stood up — and she got them. It was symbolic, in a way. The Sisters had stood up to may difficulties in their few years in Pasco, and Sister Patricia wanted the trees and shrubbery to follow their example.