New Maternity Hospital Building Will Be Start of East Side Medical Centre

The most modern methods of maternal care will become available to downtown mothers with the completion of the new building of the Jewish Maternity Hospital, the oldest Jewish hospital of its kind in the United States.

The project, which will be started shortly on a plot adjacent to Beth Israel Hospital on Stuyvesant Park East, will mark the beginning of a lower East Side medical centre, designed to minister to the entire downtown area.

How the Jewish Maternity Hospital has served to break down Old World inhibitions against childbirth in hospital beds and instilled in immigrant mothers an appreciation for improved methods of pre- and postnatal care was described by Dr. Nathan Ratnoff, medical director of Beth Israel Hospital and secretary of the board of directors of Jewish Maternity, who has been associated with the women’s hospital since its inception twenty-seven years ago.

“When the hospital was opened,” Dr. Ratnoff said, “our first great problem was to overcome the feeling of Jewish women that children should be born at home and never in hospitals. To pass the confinement period at a medical institution was completely outside the range of their understanding and very far, indeed, from their desires. There existed, as a carry-over from Old World beliefs, the thought that there was something degrading in the experience.

“Our hospital did succeed in removing this prejudice. It gave the poorest of the poor in the most thickly populated district in the world a modern maternity hospital —and taught them to avail themselves of its services.

“Especially hazardous to maternal health was the European practice of hiring a ‘watchwoman’ to perform the post-natal duties normally executed by a trained nurse. These ‘watchwomen’, usually poor neighbors—even more straitened in circumstances than the mothers—took care of the house and the children and the mother. Their knowledge of sanitation was non-existent, with the result that maternal diseases and complications were very frequent.

“In recognition of this condition, one of the earliest acts of the Jewish Maternity Hospital was the founding of a training school for graduate obstetrical nurses—the first of its kind anywhere. The work of these nurses has been so extensive that we have succeeded in virtually abolishing the use of watchwomen.

“As a result of the present merger with Beth Israel, the new maternity institution will combine the advantages of an expanded and modernized plant with the facilities of a completely equipped general hospital to provide for complications and diseases attendant on maternity.”

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