Sunday, October 17, 2021

Slidell Memorial Hospital in 1972

In 2019 Slidell Memorial Hospital celebrated its 60th anniversary. A short video on Facebook shared photos and facts about the facility's first year.


According to the video, Slidell was growing in the 1950's and its needs were changing. In 1956, Mayor Homer Fritchie and other Slidell residents began planning for a new community hospital. On November 15, 1959, Slidell Memorial Hospital opened along a gravel road now known as Gause Boulevard.

The next day, at 8:15 am on November 16, 1959, the first baby was born there. That year Slidell Memorial Hospital served 1286 patients. 

Back in 1972

 In 1972 I wrote an extensive article about the operation of Slidell Memorial Hospital. It was published in the Sentry News, and below you will find the text of that article.

Please remember that the information in this article was current some 50 years ago, so a few things have changed since that time.

 A Tour of  Slidell Memorial Hospital

 (Slidell Sentry News- By Ron Barthet)

Located just across the street from the NASA Computer Center on Gause Boulevard is a large, rambling complex of buildings with a wide circular driveway in front and a two-story structure in back. One of the purposes of the Computer Center is to keep men going to the moon alive; one of the purposes of the building across the street is to just keep all of us alive.

Aerial view of Slidell Memorial Hospital, 1975

And to do so, Slidell Memorial Hospital has at its command a variety of departments all dedicated to making available to the patient almost anything his doctor thinks necessary. It is the doctor who evaluates and decides the course of action, it is the patient who responds, but it is the hospital who carries out what needs to be done, providing the doctor with services, equipment and medical data and providing the patient with the best possible care.

While certainly the hospital is in a way an extension of the doctor and fills in for him in a way he could never do by himself, more often than not the patient considers it separate and distinct from the doctor's influence.

To better understand how a hospital functions, perhaps a close examination of Slidell Memorial's various departments would be appropriate.


Perhaps the most well-known part of the hospital is its emergency room. Through its doors come almost every kind of injury, sickness and condition, from heart attacks to splinters in fingers. Whatever the emergency however, it's almost certain the professional staff of the emergency room can handle it.

The procedure varies from case to case. Sometimes they are fore-warned, then other times the tragedy comes through the door unannounced. A seriously-injured victim is immediately taken to one of the treatment rooms where care begins instantly in the case of life and death. Bleeding is stopped, vital signs are checked, and if necessary an airway is established.

For cardiac cases, a heart monitor is on hand to evaluate the condition of the heartbeat. In the event of heart failure, cardiac massage is immediately begun with an electro shock mechanism ready if needed.

The equipment in the emergency room is both of a general and specific nature - general when routine injuries are taken care of and specific when just that special piece of equipment is needed to save one particular life.

The nurses in the emergency room are specially trained for emergency first aid and often give seriously injured persons the edge on life. Nonetheless, as soon as possible, the victim's' personal doctor is called, to take command of the situation. After all, the doctor knows more about his patient than anyone else and can use that knowledge to better decide a course of action.

Once the patient is stabilized, the doctor can either  admit him to the hospital, transfer him to another hospital for more expert treatment of a special injury, or release him to go home.

For instance, in the case of chest or head wounds, it is likely that the doctor may transfer his patient to a New Orleans hospital where recognized specialists can take care of the injury.

Some "emergency" cases are not of an urgent nature, so the victim may be asked to fill out the emergency room form before treatment is administered. While its first and foremost concern is always saving lives and easing pain, the hospital out of necessity must pay its bills and the patients are requested to pay for services rendered.

With a normal capacity of six persons, the emergency room can handle considerably more when necessary. In those first few minutes when it takes responsibility for saving a person's life, the room acts in a manner almost peculiar to it, that of not needing instructions from the personal physician.

As soon as he arrives, it of course relinquishes its authority, but until then, the staff makes every effort to render the corporal works of mercy. If the victim needs blood, the lab is called in to determine blood type, and if the type is not immediately available, a volume expander may be administered until the correct type of blood is located.

If a victim has apparently expired when he arrives and doesn't respond after continuous efforts to revive him, a physician or the deputy coroner  must pronounce him dead.

In the case of violent, intentional injury and death, the coroner's office is called in and may begin an investigation. Even an autopsy may be ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

X-rays as well as blood tests may be required in rendering a patient emergency assistance, so sometimes the victim is wheeled just down the hallway to the x-ray room.

Regardless of the controversy, no one can dispute the fact that the emergency room almost certainly provides the best possible care at the best possible time. It may be well to remember that as far as order of treatment goes, serious injury takes priority. There is no first come, first served philosophy there. In fact, the emergency room sometimes has to deal with cases that should have been taken to a doctor's office days earlier.

Considering its responsibilities and the factors involved, the emergency room performs a public service virtually unequaled by any other service within thirty miles.


Whether a person comes from the emergency room to be admitted or he walks in through the front door, the function of admission is actually one of the least complex in the entire hospital.

There are four reasons for this: (1) only one master form is required. This is accomplished by a multiple admission form with carbon paper furnishing all the information to various departments, (2) the admitting officer requires much information from the patient or nearest of kin, (3) the questions are simple and for the most part essential, and (4) at this point one finds out whether he can afford it or not and, comparatively speaking, we have found the room charges at the Slidell Memorial Hospital were less than any of the metropolitan New Orleans area hospitals for equal or better services.

The fourth reason is just as important to the person being admitted as it is to the hospital.

Emergency room admissions take priority over elective admissions, and when the victim is unable to respond to questions, a member of the family usually takes on the task. If information is not available about an emergency case that has to be admitted, then a form is just marked and set aside until the victim's family can supply the routine information.
In the event of a dire emergency, severely injured patients requiring immediate treatment or hospitalization will be adequately cared for and routine questions postponed until a later time.

The patient who is admitted for elective surgery has it a bit easier. The admitting officer anticipates his arrival having been notified by his attending physician. When he sits down and completes the form, his case is reviewed, his finances evaluated, and his room is assigned. Every morning the admitting officer receives a discharge summary with a room list confirming vacancies so she'll know which rooms are available throughout the hospital.

After the admissions office, the patient stops by an office that collects information about his insurance coverage.

Finished with insurance, several things can happen. The patient can be taken to lab and x-ray for pre-operative examinations and tests, or he can be taken directly to his room if his malady doesn't require immediate x-rays and tests.

Whatever the course of action, a courier from the admissions office will assist him to the proper room.

The master form that was filled out in the admissions office is separated into several sections, each going to the department that will be affected by the admission of the patient. The top summary sheet, which will establish the patients chart at an assigned nursing station, accompanies the patient to his floor, one copy goes to medical records, one to the business office, and one to volunteer workers and the switchboard. In effect, everyone who needs to know, finds out.

At this point all the information which the patient has given on the form becomes confidential and cannot be    released to the general public (should anyone ask) without the permission of the doctor and the patient.

Up in his room, the person is given a typical patient hospital gown, together with an admission kit which contains various toiletries. He now is officially a patient.


Lying in bed watching television, the patient is really aware of only one important spot in the hospital - his nursing station down the hall. Between the patient and the station is a little red button and a wall speaker.

In effect, the hours spent in bed being cared for are necessary to determine (1) patient response to treatment, (2) results of lab tests and x-rays, and (3) evaluation of patient stabilization before his release. The doctor is the central character in this portion of the hospital drama. He is the one responsible for deciding what needs to be changed, when to change it, and when to discharge the patient from hospital care.

The nurses keep a 24-hour watch for the doctor, keeping charts on his patient's conditions and being on hand if something should go wrong. The nurses see to it that the medications that the doctor orders are administered, the measurements ordered by the doctor are made and the preparations needed for treatment are properly done. This includes medicine, diet, daily personal care, mental attitude and maid service.

The doctor reviews the charts kept by the nurses and consults with them concerning the patient. So, the nurses are there to transmit the doctors orders. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, aides and orderlies are involved in this function of patient care. And that's the view from the nurses station.


Although certainly one of the most intriguing parts of the hospital, the operating room has a character all its own. Its duties are vastly different to those of many of the other departments, for while the hospital as a whole concentrates on the day to day improvement of an ill or injured person, a gradual process that may take from a few days to several weeks, the operating room completes its main responsibility in the space of a few hours.

Even though it saves lives by the thousands and gives many seriously ill persons the chance to live normally again, the operating room performs its miracles in complete concentration.

Teamwork is the key there. Although the doctor is again in command, the coordination of his assistants and technicians is of paramount importance. Perfection isn't a goal of the operating room; it's a requirement.

Cleanliness and aseptic technique are the first considerations. The operating room must be immaculate from top to bottom, and all of the instruments and other accouterments required by the physician are sterile.

Proper garments must be worn to keep it clean. Safety is another top consideration, All equipment used in the operating room is conductive and a special conductive floor is installed in all of the operating rooms. Where one spark of static electricity could cause untold damage, precautions are religiously followed to eliminate this possibility.

Prior to surgery, the patient undergoes a standard pre-operative preparation which includes the specified area and limiting the intake of food and liquid. Lab and other tests determine the type of anesthesia that will be administered. This function is accomplished by a nurse anesthetist.

Forty-five minutes prior to the operation, a pre­operative medication is given to relax the patient and thirty minutes prior to its effectiveness, the patient is brought from his room and placed in the surgical corridor leading to the operating room itself. When all is ready, the patient is taken into the operating room.

During surgery, precision and skill are the order of the day. All members of the team function on a sterile field.

Three operating rooms are available at Slidell Memorial, and can be used simultaneously. Needless to say, each room is equipped with the essential emergency equipment such as cardiac monitor, electro-shock devices, and resuscitation apparatus, together with other life saving equipment.

The surgical schedule is usually from 7:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the busiest days, merely due to the fact of doctors arranging it that way. Surgical procedures are scheduled sufficiently in advance in a permanent ledger under the jurisdiction of the operating room supervisor. In the case of an emergency operation, the schedule is immediately revised.

At night, the operating staff is on call to take emergency cases. In only twenty minutes, everything needed to perform an operation can be prepared, staff ready and instruments at the surgeon's fingertips.

Last month Slidell Memorial Hospital performed 115 operations. The department has been "rather busy" this year.

Upon removal of the patient to the recovery room in a section separate from but in the general area of the operating room a specially trained team monitors the critical post-operative period.

In the meantime, in the operating room, an extensive clean-up procedure is undertaken. New instruments are brought in and counted and new linen replaces the soiled. All is made ready for the next operation as soon as possible.

And all through the routine, the teamwork is the key to success. At Slidell Memorial, both the "excellent crew and good teamwork" make the operating room one of its top departments. Those are the words of the operating room supervisor, and she would be the one to know.


It would be only fair that since the heart is the most important organ in the body, that an entire section of the hospital would be devoted to the patient with heart trouble.

Slidell Memorial's coronary care unit is one of the most advanced units in the state. It can accommodate six cardiac patients, three intensive care patients, and twelve patients in regular care.


Photo source:

Designated the "Rotunda," the CCU is built in a circle with glass walls facing the nurses' station, offering a 24-hour view of the patient. Should an emergency situation arise, the nurse will know it, both visually and electronically, as the cardiac monitor connected to each patient traces out the problem.

When a cardiac patient first comes in, he is placed in bed, connected to the monitor and calmed as much as possible. His temperature and blood pressure are taken, and he may be put on nasal oxygen. An intravenous drip will be started to keep a blood line open for emergency drugs.

Closely following a heart attack, the chance of the damaged heart going into abnormal beat patterns or losing a pattern altogether is of the greatest concern. Watching the monitor screen and recognizing problem patterns is the foremost job of the coronary care nurse during the first critical hours of care and may prevent catastrophic situations.

Once the heartbeat is stable, the monitor is still closely observed. A diet with low-sodium content is begun. Then the day-by-day process of letting the heart muscle heal itself with the help of medication follows.

When all signs indicate no further danger of heart failure, the patient is removed for routine service for additional rest and recuperation.

One feature of the cardiac monitors that helps the doctor determine the progress of his patient is the capability of tracing a line representing the patient's heartbeat. The doctor can use this graphic representation to give him information about which part of the heart has been damaged, to what extent it was damaged, and what measures should be taken to help it heal.

While heart attacks continue to be a major threat to public health today, units like Slidell Memorial's Rotunda are one step forward in the fight against them.


No hospital would be  complete without a laboratory and an x-ray department, and Slidell Memorial is no exception. These two sections arc next door to each other in the same hall with the emergency room.

The lab performs any medical testing and evaluation necessary to determine a patient's current condition and progress. It performs at the request of the patients' attending physician under the jurisdiction of the pathologist. On occasion it responds to calls from the emergency room for emergency blood typing and other tests.

The x-ray department takes pictures of emergency cases as well as patients to be operated on to allow the doctor an inside look before he takes up his operating tools. It also provides information concerning stomach and intestinal disorders as well as bone and foreign object observation.

The x-ray department has available any x-rays taken on previous admissions. From these x-rays kept on file, the doctor can compare changes in his patient's make up. All in all, x-ray is just another tool for use by the doctor as he determines the treatment which will bring his patient back to health.


Any definition of central supply would likely be too limited. Anything that is needed for patients in the hospital can be found in central supply. This department processes and sterilizes instruments and supplies.

The basic purpose of sterilizing products is to eliminate the risk of infection in their use. At Slidell Memorial Hospital central supply maintains a record of all equipment and medical supplies utilized in the care of the patient.


In physical therapy, the patient is exercised and undergoes treatment relative to specific muscular and neurological disorders. On orders from the patient's doctor, physical therapy offers molecular massage action with ultrasound, short wave and microwave diathermy, heat packs, special baths, and infrared modalities.

There are whirlpool baths weights to be lifted, electrical stimulation equipment, and combinations of several treatments.

Patients are massaged, strengthened and trained to overcome handicaps. Breathing exercises are available to aid respiratory patients and various tests can be made to determine neurological and muscle response to guide the doctor in determining this patient's capability.


Respiratory care is a special department employing several persons on'a 24-hour basis. Here again all treatments are made at the request of the attending physician.

There are various types of equipment required by the inhalation therapy department, such as respirometer, respirator, nebulizer, steam mist apparatus, oxygen tent units, air compressors, oxygen analyzers, oxygen humidifiers, flow meters and blood gas analyzers.

Treatments by this department are especially important in respiratory ailments such as pneumonia, emphysema and bronchitis.

The electro-cardiograph department is also coordinated with respiratory care. All personnel are trained in this dual function.


While not one of the most well-known departments of the    hospital, the medical records department is one of utmost importance to the patient. Records exceeding in excess of 60,000 emergency room patients and 43,000 admissions are immediately available in the medical record department to provide past histories of the patient to the attending physician. These records represent patients in excess of the entire population of the parish.

When a patient enters the hospital, a copy of the admission slip is sent to medical records. If the patient has been in this hospital before, all previous records are coordinated in a unit folder under the current admission number; thus all records of previous admissions are made available to the attending physician, to assist in his evaluation of current hospitalization.

Upon discharge the patient's record is forwarded to the medical record department where a quantitative analysis is done. If the record is incomplete, it is given to the attending physician for completion.

The doctor may hand write notes or use the Code-a-phone system to dictate histories and physicals, operative notes, consultations, and dismissal notes which are transcribed by a medical secretary in the department. The attending physician has 15 days to complete the record after the patient has been discharged from the hospital.

The record department pulls charts for committee meetings of the medical staff, answers insurance inquiries for additional information with a current original authorization from the patient, compiles daily, monthly and yearly statistics and maintains disease, operation, patient and physician indexes.


In 1968, the department began microfilming medical records and have records of patients admitted from November 15, 1959, through 1965 on microfilm.

At present, they are microfilming the records from 1966 through 1968. They estimate this will take about six to eight months to complete.

This department also prepares the information for birth certificates for the Division of Vital Statistics on all births and deaths occurring in the institution. This information is then sent to the public health unit, who in turn forwards the certificate to the New Orleans Division of Public Health.

Parents may obtain copies of a birth certificate for a reasonable fee from the New Orleans office.

In addition, the medical record department also maintains a medical reference library for doctors and hospital personnel. This department is under the supervision of a registered medical record administrator.


So, after going over the departments so far named, one has just barely scratched the surface of the activity at the Slidell Memorial Hospital. Still unexamined are pharmacy, maintenance, dietary, house­keeping, purchasing, storeroom as well as the administrative and business offices.

The visible workings of Slidell Memorial, as it is with just about any hospital, is just the tip of the iceberg. The patient or visitor sees just one-tenth of the total picture.

It takes from 2-l/4 to 2-1/2 persons employed by the hospital to render background support for each patient. In other words, the 258 employees of the hospital are available in assisting in the care of the patients.

All in all, the primary objective of the hospital is to save lives first,and render the best health care to the community. But, out of necessity, it must be financially self-sustaining.

Considered one of the most outstanding institutions of its size in the South, Slidell Memorial can well afford to be proud of its accomplishments and growth. To appreciate it, the public must understand it and realize its challenges.

In this way, the hospital will be in a better position to render the corporal works of mercy which was the original intent of those persons whose foresight and vision were responsible for the activation of the Slidell Memorial Hospital on November 15, 1959.

End of 1972 article