||This article's introduction may be too long for the overall article length. (February 2012)|
|Location||Norwalk, Connecticut, United States|
|Affiliated university||Yale University School of Medicine, New York Medical College School of Medicine|
|Emergency department||Level I|
|Lists||Hospitals in Connecticut|
Norwalk Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute care community teaching hospital in the Spring Hill section of Norwalk, Connecticut. The hospital serves a population of 250,000 in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. The hospital has more than 500 physicians on its active medical staff, and 2,000 health professionals and support personnel. John M. Murphy, M.D. is president and CEO of Western Connecticut Health Network, the regional health system that includes Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital. Norwalk Hospital's president and chief executive officer is Dan DeBarba.
Quality and Safety
The hospital was awarded the HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the only hospital in Fairfield County so honored. HealthGrades, an independent health care ratings organization, analyzed three years of Medicare data and determined that Norwalk Hospital ranked in the top five percent of all hospitals nationally for clinical excellence. This top tier of hospitals was found by HealthGrades to have statistically significantly lower patient mortality and inhospital complications than other hospitals.
Norwalk Hospital also offers specialty centers and surgical weight loss, sleep disorders, and wound care and hyperbaric medicine. Norwalk Hospital manages and operates the 911 ambulance service for Norwalk and provides paramedic services for the towns of Wilton, Weston, Westport and New Canaan.
Norwalk Hospital is a major landowner in the Spring Hill neighborhood. Aside from the land on which the hospital buildings are located, the hospital owns more than a dozen parcels totaling roughly six acres on Truman, Stevens and Maple Streets, Magnolia Avenue and Rhodonolia. The parcels contain houses, condominiums and medical facilities.
Norwalk Hospital serves as a teaching facility for the Yale School of Medicine, and also provides advanced fellowship programs for physicians in gastroenterology and pulmonary medicine. Many of the hospital’s physicians engage in research designed to provide patients with new treatments. Norwalk Hospital provides a variety of clinical programs and health education classes to local groups and organizations.
The hospital has a fully accredited, three-year residency program in internal medicine and diagnostic radiology, one-year physician assistant residency programs in surgery and education opportunities in anesthesiology. The Department of Medicine sponsors subspecialty fellowship training programs in Gastroenterology, Nutrition, Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine. The Section of Pulmonary Medicine also sponsors a School of Respiratory Care in conjunction with the Norwalk Community College.
Areas of Specialization
Norwalk Hospital provides a wide range of clinical programs, anchored by six signature services:
- Digestive diseases
- Emergency care with Level II trauma accreditation
- Orthopedics and neurospine
- Women's and children's
The hospital also offers these specialized services:
- Inpatient and outpatient psychiatric services
- Inpatient and outpatient addiction rehabilitation
- Hospital-based emergency medical services, considered one of the best in the state
- Inpatient and ambulatory surgery
- Sleep disorder laboratory
- Acute inpatient rehabilitation unit
- Hyperbaric medicine center
In April 2007, Norwalk Hospital announced that its principal location on Maple Street would be renovated and four new medical facilities would be created, three in Norwalk and one in the Georgetown, Connecticut community that covers parts of Redding, Ridgefield, Weston and Wilton, Connecticut. The Georgetown facility would have 30,000- to 50,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of space.
In May 2008 the Health and Wellness Center of Norwalk Hospital opened in the i.park Norwalk office park spanning the Norwalk-Wilton border on Route 7. Three medical practices staff the 100,000-square-foot (10,000 m2) space, which offers medical and wellness services and the offices of primary care physicians, obstetricians/gynecologists and other specialists.
Also in Norwalk, at the corner of Maple Street and West Avenue, the hospital planned a 50,000-square-foot (5,000 m2) Musculoskeletal Institute to open in 2008. The hospital also opened another 50,000-square-foot (5,000 m2) location for medical and office space on West Avenue.
Individual patient-created Web pages
The hospital became the first in the state to offer "CarePages"—Web pages that patients themselves create to communicate with friends and family while they are in the hospital. The service was announced by the hospital in April 2006, with a pilot program in the Childbirth Center for families with babies in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). "Patients or family members can update the Web page without repeated phone calls to share their news," according to a hospital news release. "All registered guests are automatically e-mailed when an update is posted, allowing the patient or family member to spend less time on the phone." Laptops or other computers are available for patients to use, and photo galleries can also be created.
In 1888, when a young woman, Margaret Cavanagh, was devastated at the sight of a dying man in the street who had been struck by a train, there was nowhere in Norwalk to bring the gravely ill or injured. The wealthy might be taken to New York or New Haven; ordinary people faced the hazards of horsecar wrecks, factory accidents, childbed fever and pneumonia with no place to turn, in a city without a hospital.
Cavanagh enlisted passersby that day to carry the rail victim to a makeshift dispensary in the South Norwalk depot before she went on to her job as a hat trimmer. Deeply shocked, she vowed to find some answer for such tragic emergencies. She and other women employees went to foreman John Mains. At Cavanagh's suggestion, a City-wide meeting of hat workers was called, and the movement to establish Norwalk Hospital was born.
After a "hatters' hospital fund" reached $6,000, a temporary community-wide association was organized at a public meeting. Its first fundraiser was a benefit baseball game between married and bachelor physicians, netting $1,052. The drive took on added urgency at the news that even the rudimentary first-aid room at the depot was closing. When a public rally for a hospital convened in October 1891, the Weekly Gazette reported the "monster meeting" filled every seat in the vast armory, with 300 standees as well. The Rev William J. Slocum of St. Mary's led off the pledges, declaring, "We don't want talk so much as we do want money," and the populace caught the spirit. Hat trimmers, with churches and schools, staged a bazaar hospital complex, raising $2,800, and leading citizenry flocked to the cause.
On December 3, 1892, incorporation of The Norwalk Hospital Association was granted by the state. At the first meeting, in the office of Judge John Light, John I. Ferris was elected president.
As temporary quarters, the association leased the second and part of the third floor of a frame house at 24 Leonard Street. On opening day, July 20, 1893, The Norwalk Hour praised the accommodations as "scrupulously clean, with separate wards for men and women, three snow-white beds in each." A converted kitchen served as an operating room and the landlord's son doubled as the first orderly and ambulance driver.
Among the original incorporators, besides ministers, merchants and other worthies, were four physicians; ever since 1868 local doctors had been meeting professionally, as the Norwalk Medical Society. Its secretary, William J. Tracey, MD, became medical director of the hospital, first of a Tracey tradition of physicians that is still going strong a century later, in the fourth generation. Also included were state representatives like John Mains.
Woman's Board Formed
Margaret Cavanagh was named to another group created at the first meeting, a "Ladies Visiting Board" led by prominent townswomen. Later renamed the Woman's Board, it was charged with supplying many basic hospital needs and comforts, a mission that took on heroic proportion in the decades ahead.
Within days, five patients had been admitted. During its six years, the walk-up hospital treated 431 patients and had to turn away many more. The limits of turn-of-the-century medicine were evident from the records; only five operations were listed for 1893, all of them simple amputations of fingers or toes. Before public health measures and antibiotics, typhoid fever and pneumonia loomed large and lingered long. An average hospital stay back then was 20 days.
As patients streamed in not only from a growing Norwalk but from the villages of Westport, Weston, Wilton and Darien, the community pressed ahead with construction. On August 21, 1899, the doors opened on a new hospital on Armory Hill on the Post Road (Connecticut Avenue near Stuart).
The People's Hospital
The 26-bed institution now offered some private rooms and an "etherizing room" for surgery. The program of a 1900 musical spoke glowingly of "The People's Hospital," but reminded "appreciative hearts" of ongoing needs. The direct link of gifts to medical care is seen in the 1906 annual report's thanks for a tank of oxygen, a stomach tube and a clock for operating room. Other welcome donations were linens, bushel of apples, and "on one very warm day, ice cream for all the patients, nurse and orderlies." Then as now, friends also helped the hospital keep up with scientific advances. Only a decade after Roentgen announced his discovery of the X-ray in Germany, 1,906 donors here were thanked for enabling the purchase of an X-Ray machine.
Norwalk Hospital nursing education began in December 1905, with one pupil nurse as the vanguard of generations of nurses who earned their caps during the 68-year existence of the School of Nursing.
Though the hospital expanded to 40 beds, it was overtaxed in a few years. Families began to look to hospitals for childbirth, but there was no maternity ward. The board confronted the need to build yet again. Fortunately, at this juncture new resources of leadership and philanthropy emerged.
Friends in Deed
John J. Cavanagh, a brother of Margaret, was energy personified. In industry he rose from workbench to executive suite, becoming head of the Hat Corporation of America by the 1920s. Elected mayor of Norwalk in 1908, he donated the yearly salary of $250 to the hospital and became a director. Soon the hospital became his lifelong crusade.
When it was found that an adequate new hospital would cost $100,000 (astronomical in 1915), it was Cavanagh who induced John H. McMullen, a retired construction magnate, to take the presidency and begin fundraising. Even more importantly, Cavanagh interested E. T. Bedford, a financier, oilman and philanthropist from Greens Farms, in the welfare of the hospital.
A Crisis Calls
The new 75-bed building, high on Stevens Street overlooking the city, was being readied for a December 3 debut in 1918 when the deadly worldwide influenza epidemic struck. Board member Samuel Roodner rushed his own crew over to help finish the work, and on October 12 the doors were open for the sick. Within 35 days, 119 flu patients were treated.
With Bedford leading the board and Cavanagh second in command, expansion continued. To train enough nurses, the Nursing School badly needed its own building. Bedford made a 50 percent challenge pledge that was matched through a Kiwanis Club campaign and Knights of Columbus benefits, to erect the Mary A. Bedford Nurses Home in 1926. He went on to underwrite the entire Bedford Pavilion, which doubled the hospital's capacity to 160 in 1929.
Medical advances also kept pace; the first electrocardiagraph for detecting heart disease arrived in 1920. Then a scientist hired from Cornell Medical School set up a pathology laboratory. With updated devices, she and a specialist started an X-ray department, and diagnostic X-rays tripled in one year. Radiation therapy began in 1928, and the hospital hired its first house physician and interns, a harbinger of today's major medical education program.
During the Great Depression, survival was a real concern for institutions as well as individuals; 110 American hospitals were forced to close in 1932 alone. Nonetheless, Norwalk Hospital not only prevailed, but pioneered.
Its Hospital Service Plan group insurance in 1935 was one of the state's first; later joining with New Haven, it evolved into Connecticut Blue Cross.
Medical innovation included a tumor clinic begun in 1934, which was ahead of most community hospitals in the area. This weekly consultation for cancer patients, regardless of ability to pay, was the first step toward today's comprehensive clinic program, with more than 30 specialties serving over 50,000 yearly.
A World War II labor influx had an already-full hospital overflowing. With government help, the North Wing was added in 1944. Yet much more was needed when the postwar suburban explosion tripled the demands upon Norwalk Hospital. Once more, people responded. Energetic campaigns by surrounding towns as well as in Norwalk made the Community Pavilion a reality in 1953. The generosity of Charles A. Dana and Mrs. Roman H. Heyn led to the Dana Pavilion in 1961. Further 1960s expansion added more floors in a race to keep up with area growth.
New medical and educational vistas opened in the 1970s. Norman A. Brady served as President from 1971-85. The hospital, in 1975, formalized its affiliation with Yale University School of Medicine for its graduate residency program in internal medicine. Today every clinical department has an educational association with its counterpart at Yale. The hospital introduced ambulatory surgery to Connecticut and launched the nation's first postgraduate residency exclusively for surgical physician assistants. Norwalk became one of the first hospitals in the state to install a hospital-wide computerized patient information system. In 1978, a vigorous building drive doubled the hospital's square footage.
- List of hospitals in Connecticut
- Stamford Hospital
- St. Vincent's Medical Center
- Bridgeport Hospital
- Greenwich Hospital
- Danbury Hospital
- Koch, Robert, "Spring Hill residents: We want a park" The Hour of Norwalk, Connecticut, January 12, 2008
-  Web page titled "Spiritual Care: Clinical Pastoral Education at Norwalk Hospital" at the Norwalk Hospital Web site, accessed September 4, 2006
- Garrison, Lauren, "Norwalk Hospital Announces Major Expansion", news article in The Darien Times, April 26, 2007
- Ginocchio, Mark, "Hostpial brings i.park to fruition: Wellness center to open at Norwalk complex", news article, The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, both Norwalk and Stamford editions, pp C1-C2, May 29, 2008
-  News release dated April 29, 2006 and titled "Norwalk Hospital Offers New Service that Connects Patients and Families" found at Norwalk Hospital Web site, accessed September 4, 2006