When the Kettering Health Network broke ground for a new $60 million hospital in Troy Thursday, it was a full circle kind of moment.
The facility will be close to 100,000 square feet in size and will be located on the site of the old Hobart Brothers factory on West Main Street. I know some people in town were hoping for some kind of mixed-use extension of the downtown, but I have to admit I am kind of relieved that the health network is moving in. It sure beats having the 437th pizza place or the 224th auto parts store setting up shop there.
I think of it as a full circle because at one time this county was littered with hospitals. It started back in 1905, when Ball Memorial Hospital, later to become Piqua Memorial Hospital, opened in Piqua. In 1928, Stouder Memorial Hospital opened in Troy. Then in the 1950s someone decided two hospitals within a 10-minute drive of each other wasn’t enough, and Dettmer General Hospital opened its doors in between Troy and Piqua.
In 1960, when I was a young boy in Troy, there were almost 73,000 people in Miami County, but many of the residents in the southern part of the county went to Dayton for hospital care. We were the hospital capital of the world. At that time, we probably had more hospitals than pizza joints.
I was born at Stouder, but the first visit I remember making there was to get my tonsils removed. I was just a little guy and I wasn’t all that sure that having strangers rip out portions of my body was a good idea. I was certain when they slapped that mask on me and I smelled the ether that it was my last day on Earth. I tried to get up and run, but they had two female linebackers there who must have worked as nurses in the offseason, and they held me down while I went under.
I was surprised when I woke up and found out I was still alive. Then I tried to swallow. It was like someone threw a grenade down my throat. I vowed that I would stay out of hospitals at all costs for the rest of my life. Fortunately, I was able to turn that traumatic experience into loads of ice cream and Popsicles, so it didn’t turn out so bad, after all.
Over the years I made quite a few visits to Stouder for sprained ankles and stitches. My daughter and first son were born at Dettmer. My second son was born at Stouder and we spent quite a few years taking our boys there for stitches and broken bones. They should have put our pictures on the wall for being such consistent contributors. For a while, we lived right down the street from Stouder so when there was an injury we could just walk down to the emergency room and pick out our regular chairs while we waited.
Then one day, someone woke up and asked the obvious question: “Why do we have so many hospitals around here?” Modern medicine discovered the fact that no one really wants to be in the hospital. When my daughter was born, they kept my wife in the hospital for a week and treated her like Princess Diana. By the time my final son was born, they were trying to wheel her directly from the delivery room to the back of our van.
So people from Piqua and Troy and other parts of the county started working together (this was the first known instance of anything like that ever happening) and they decided to close Stouder and Piqua and Dettmer, too, and open a new hospital in between Troy and Piqua where Dettmer was located. So in 1998, Upper Valley Medical Center was born. There was a lot of complaining at the time, but eventually we all got used to it and, besides, what are you going to do? Boycott the hospital when you have a kidney stone or broken bone? Not likely.
Back then, one of the big selling points was cutting back on duplication of services and competition. But these days, competition in the medical field is all the rage. So when Kettering opens its hospital in 2018, we’ll be back to having multiple hospitals right down the road from each other again. I guess we can expect someone to build a hospital in Piqua in the near future and then we’ll be right back where we started.
Or maybe not. That whole Troy-Piqua rivalry thing is great for selling tickets to football and basketball games, but in reality what helps one town helps the other. I think it’s great that Piqua has new schools and Edison Community College (and even a movie theater!) just like it will be good for Piqua when the new medical facility opens in Troy.
I’m not sure how this all will work out, but my guess is that Gus Stouder and Julia Ball Thayer and Jacob Dettmer, the people responsible for those first three hospitals, would think it’s OK that their places have been replaced. The newest addition should be a big benefit for downtown Troy. Although I have to admit, I’m going to try to stay away from both hospitals as much as I can. I still remember those tonsils and the Amazon nurses from many years ago. I’m be glad the medical facility is going to be there, I just hope to avoid being a regular customer.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.