1940s operating room
Present day triage room
The year is 1912. William Howard Taft is President of the United States, and Congress has just come up with a newfangled source of revenue: the federal income tax. Locally, Oakland's mayor is battling San Francisco politicians over their proposal to annex his city. Women cannot vote, and have no official say in public policy. But an Alameda County nurse named Bertha Wright and a group of East Bay ladies have a very ambitious plan: to open "the first hospital on this coast where equipment and management would be exclusively for the care of babies…"—all babies, and children, no matter what their family circumstances.
The ladies turned their plan into reality within two years. They began by founding the Baby Hospital Association and added a male Board of Directors to facilitate business transactions. They raised $12,500 to buy an old estate on one and one-third acres at Fifty-first and Dover Streets in Oakland. They pinned up their skirts and rolled up their sleeves to scrub the floors and windows of the mansion’s former stable, where on September 6, 1914, the Baby Hospital opened its doors.
In 1967, Miss Wright recalled those early days: "…We had to fight our way. The doctors opposed us, as they thought we were taking their patients away. We had to educate the people to feel that the hospital would help their children... I remember the difficulty I had so many times in convincing them that a baby needed special care…"
During its first year of operation, the Baby Hospital charged $1 per day for ward beds and $2.50 for private rooms. Those who could not pay were treated for free. The average monthly cost of operation was $2,000, with about $800 covered by patient fees and funds from the city and county. The ladies went door to door, collecting donations to make up the deficit, and the hospital was able to grow and serve more children. No family was ever turned away for lack of ability to pay.
The practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare have undergone vast changes since 1914, and so has the Baby Hospital. We've changed our name and expanded our services. Today, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is a 191-bed regional and global resource for advanced pediatric care, research and medical education, with more than 200,000 patient visits per year. Children’s has Northern California’s most active pediatric trauma center, the region’s busiest pediatric intensive care unit, and one of the largest sickle cell treatment and research centers in the world. Children’s 166 hospital-based physicians provide expert care in 30 pediatric subspecialties, from adolescent medicine to urology.
Children’s continues to evolve in response to community need. In 2003, work was completed on a renovation providing expanded space for vital services such as our Emergency and Urgent Care Departments. It gave the hospital two new surgical suites, an on-site MRI, a dramatic main entrance pavilion and a comfortable, family-friendly lobby.
Some important things will never change. No area family has ever been turned away due to lack of ability to pay. And Children’s Hospital Oakland still looks to the community for the support that enables us to provide essential services to the children and families of Northern California—and beyond.