Brownsville General Hospital

Brownsville General Hospital

Brownsville General Hospital is a long-abandoned hospital in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. After its closure in 1965, the buildings were reused for the Brownsville Golden Age Nursing Home until 1985.






History

Prior to the construction of a hospital in Brownsville, medical intervention required a trip to the local doctor or by rail or boat to McKeesport or Fairmont. It was not until 1908 when the Rev. E.M. Bowman proposed the building of a hospital in Brownsville. 5 7 After two years of planning, a group of citizens secured a charter from the state for a new hospital. 7

A fundraiser brought in $10,000 towards the construction of a medical building. 7 A location was selected at Fifth Avenue and Church Street on the site of the former Brownsville Public School. A second fundraiser brought in an additional $32,000 followed by the securement of several government appropriations. A contract was awarded to the Charleroi Lumber Company with the provision that construction on the hospital would continue as long as the money remained in the bank account. 7

The facility began admitting patients in July 1914 despite the building still being under construction, 5 7 and work did not wrap up until 1916. An additional fundraising campaign raised $120,000 for a surgical ward that was then built. A nurses home was added in 1920, 8 but it was not long until it became overcrowded.

Another fundraiser held in 1923 brought in $100,000, 7 and another $100,000 came from Joseph Horner, a partner in the Horner Coal Company, who bequeathed the money to the hospital when he died in 1926. 8 With the influx of cash, construction for a larger nurses home began in September 1928. 5 8 The Horner Medical Nurses Home, which included a nursing school, was dedicated in late July 1929 at the cost of $135,000. 8

The first floor of the new Nurses Home contained a reception room, ten bedrooms, and two libraries. An Indiana limestone mantle was constructed at the west end of the parlor. The second and third floors were nearly identical, each containing 15 bedrooms and a large bathroom. The basement featured a classroom, lecture room, sewing room, kitchen, closets, gymnasium, and boiler. A sun porch was located on the roof.

The School of Nursing operated until its closure in 1952. 6 A Brownsville General Hospital publication noted that it stopped training nurses because the preparation had become “academically oriented.” After it closed, it became the Horner Memorial Nurses Home, a residence for some of the nurses who worked at the hospital, and later a long-term care facility for the elderly.

The hospital added a 40-foot by 96-foot third level to house 13 patients in four private rooms and one semi-private room in April 1942. 13 It also included a new operating room.

The need for a new hospital by the 1950s had become clear as the facility boasted the highest occupancy rate of any hospital in the state. 11 By May 1960, the 100-bed hospital was at 99.5% capacity which was an increase from the prior year’s rate of 99.3%, and there was a daily waiting list of 20 to 25 patients for surgery or treatment. The state recommendation noted that a hospital should only be 80% occupied so that the remaining 20% could be made available in an emergency event.

Relocation

A new Brownsville General Hospital, on the top of the hill overlooking the city, was dedicated on June 5, 1965. 2 The old facility was purchased by Frank Bock and renovated into the Golden Age Nursing Home. 6

But by the time the hospital had opened on the top of the hill, Brownsville was in an economic and population decline brought on by the downturn of the steel industry and layoffs in nearby coal mines. Rumors circulated as early as October 1976 that the new General Hospital, due to low patient intake numbers, could close. 9 The obstetrical unit was shuttered due to low demand, followed by staff layoffs in 1977. 10 Only 42 beds were occupied with 79 open. The employees were recalled back in the winter due to increased demand but more layoffs occurred in 1978. 12

The hospital faced two pressing issues that jeopardized its stability in late 2004. The physical plant had not been maintained properly and costs for its repairs were escalating, and revenues were declining. 3 The Board of Directors solicited offers from groups and organizations for the management of the facility and turned over the reins of the hospital to a group of doctors which converted the hospital into a for-profit institution. The Brownsville General Hospital was renamed to Tara Hospital.

Tara Hospital closed on January 8, 2006, over financial difficulties and labor disputes, leaving 260 employees out of work. 1 3 It was not until October 2007 that the non-profit board was able to regain control over the hospital. A community group reopened it as the Brownsville Tri-County Hospital on May 22, 2008, 4 but it was again closed over poor finances on February 12, 2009. The remaining 15 patients were transferred to other facilities.

Golden Age Nursing Home

After the Brownsville General Hospital relocated to its new location in 1965, the former buildings were renovated for use as the Golden Age Nursing Home. 6

In May 1983, two women, Wells and Snyder, visited Golden Age with an interest in placing a relative in the nursing home. 15 They were appalled by the conditions they found in 15-minute visit. The two women sought attention to state and federal officials to complain about the nursing home, writing to Governor Richard Thornburgh, Senator John Heinz, the state Secretary of Health, the HFCA, President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, and several television stations.

A federal survey was conducted at the nursing home on from May 30 to June 1, 1984, which uncovered serious violations, and a follow-up visit by the state found other issues. 15 The Medicare agreement with the nursing home was terminated and in July, the state Department of Public Welfare notified Golden Age that its termination from Medicare also necessitated the termination from Medicaid. The Department of Health, based on the state and federal inspection records, suspended all new admissions to the nursing home, which was guilty of:

  • A serious violation of the provisions of the state Health Care Facilities Act and the regulations for licensure
  • A cyclical pattern of deficiencies over a period of two or more years
  • A serious violation of laws relating to medical assistance and Medicare reimbursement

An appeal was filed in March 1985, and the state Health Facility Hearing Board ruled that the Department of Health had failed to prove its charges. 15 The license to the nursing home was reinstated in December. 16 The Department of Health appealed and the Commonwealth Court overturned the Board’s decision and the license was again revoked. 14 While the proceedings with the state were ongoing, Golden Age appealed the Medicare decertification. 15 An administrative law judge ordered that Golden Age’s Medicare reimbursement be restored, but when the Commonwealth Court overturned the state Board’s decision, the nursing home lost its Medicare payments.

As a result of the investigations, the nursing home owner, Frank Bock, sued four individuals in state court seeking $40,000 each in damages in April 1986. 14 Bock stated that the director of the division of Long-Term Care for the Department of Health, Joyce McNamara, Senator Heinz, Wells, and Snyder had conspired to interfere with Golden Age’s business. The complaint was moved to federal court after Senator Heinz filed a motion to dismiss in June. Senator Heinz, Wells, and Snyder filed a motion for summary judgment.

The District Court granted summary judgment against Golden Age on counts of its complaint alleging “tortious interference with business relationships” based upon the inspections by both state and federal officials that unveiled multiple, serious violations. 15 The court then granted summary judgment in favor of all four defendants.


Gallery






Sources

[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]

  1. Gazarik, Richard, and Joe Napsha. “Brownsville Tri-County Hospital forced to close again.” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 13 Feb. 2009: n. pag. TribLive. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  2. Tunney, Glenn. “Veteran nurses reflect upon the state of nursing today.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 1 Oct. 2000: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  3. Bucsko, Mike. “Hospital to open again in a few months.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 Aug. 2007: n. pag. PG NOW. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  4. Fayette County MH/MR Program. “Brownsville Tri-County Hospital Opens.” The Answer 15.2 (Apr.-June 2008): 1. Print.
  5. “Events in Brownsville’s history.” Brownsville Telegraph 1 July 1929: n. pag. Print.
  6. Tunney, Glenn. “Conscientious nursing care characterized the old Brownsville General Hospital.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 24 Sept. 2000: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  7. Tunney, Glenn. “Original Brownsville General Hospital opened its doors to the public in 1914.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 3 Sept. 2000: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  8. Tunney, Glenn. “Unexpected gift led to new home for hospital’s nurses.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 10 Sept. 2000: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  9. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 7 Oct. 2001: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  10. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 1 Dec. 2002: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  11. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 1 May 2005: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  12. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 31 Aug. 2003: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  13. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 7 April 2002: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  14. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 8 April 2001: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.
  15. Brownsville Golden Age Nursing Home, Inc. v. Wells. 839 F.2d 155. Third Circuit Court. 1988. Public.Resource.Org. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2011. Article.
  16. Tunney, Glenn. “Brownsville Time Capsule.” Herald-Standard [Uniontown] 31 Dec. 2000: n. pag. rootsweb. Web. 28 June 2011. Article.

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34 Comments

  1. I was born there in October of 1948. I think that this is the first time I’ve see the hospital. Glad to see that it still stands. I am an abandoned places hound! Very nice photo work. Thanks much for sharing with us all.

  2. My two sisters and I were born in the old hospital. I remember visiting my brother in law in the 60’s after an ulcer operation. It was beautiful and looked like “upper class “ craftsmanship. As far as the town is concerned, I almost cry when we drive through it. Brownsville was a very nice town back in the 60’s and 70’s. It’s a shame what happened there around the turn of the century. We still have wonderful memories of good old Brownsville.

  3. I went looking for the hosipital. I found one that looks completely different from the one in the picture. Does any one know the address of this hospital?

  4. Nothing new to mee you know how many likes times I been in there to smoke a blunt who ever is in there all the time has a meth lab in the other part were they kept wheel chairs as you walk up the stairs there’s springs to make noise as u go up as soon as u get half way up there’s a nasty smell u got in and them chemists shit every where chemicals vails and all so I never went back place is haunted you can hear people talking walking and a women cryn

  5. Couldn’t find a way in? nothing there is boarded up. you can literally get in any window (not that you need to). there’s an entrance to every building and the old nursing home door has a hole in it that you can walk through. it’s a cool experience.

  6. Me and my friends have been inside of Brownsville Hospital. It’s very creepy and scary to me but the floors are mostly stable but the basement has a huge hole in it but first, second, and third floor are completely subtle aside from a few huge holes in the first floor and the elevator is completely broken to the point where it crashed into bottom of the building but I find the filing room is the most interesting with all the file papers on patients. The Golden Age however is completely different. Sadly I couldn’t find a way in since all the doors and windows are boarded but the two both have amazing history.

  7. Spent time there the past few days. The front door to both places are busted in so there is easy access to the inside. Since Brownsville is on its way to being a ghost town no one ever really pays attention to the buildings. Once inside both buildings be cautious as the floors aren’t to steardy in some places. I find the nurses quarters is more structurely safe than the hospital itself. There isn’t to much left inside of them. Just some furniture here and there and papers. Some of those papers are patient files. They are just scattered everywhere. Most of the place is destroyed and falling in on itself though. But it was a unique experience.

  8. Brownsville is very unstable. Just checked it out. Its easily accesed but he warned its very dangerous. Very cool tho. I accesed threw the basement in the back between a house. There’s a bed with a giant splatter of blood from what it looks like. The other side of the hospital seems even worse. Still a lot of history.

  9. 70 years ago from this Thursday, June 4, 2015, I was born at Brownsville General Hospital. My brother Bobby was born there in 1948. In between, we had a cousin– Gary Friedlander born in 1946 who died about 6 months later from “chronic diaherrea” . My parents told me that 100 babies born in the same time frame as Gary died. Does anyone know anything about this?

    My father, who was from Pittsburgh, speculated that there were unsanitary conditions in the Hospital, but he never was actully in the Hospital due to military service on both the occassions when I and my brother were born. My mother’s doctor was Dr. Kraft from California, Pa. who was a GP and family friend. My uncles, Harry & Julius Friedlander, were pharmacists and owned the Standard Drugstore in California, Pa. from sometime in the 1940s until 1970, when they both retired and moved to to Florida. . My mother was Rose Friedlander who lived in Donora until her married life took her to Philadelphia and then to the Washington, D.C. area. . Given the conditions at the Hospital and the Donora Smog of 1948, (which I lived through at the age of 3) I feel very fortunate to be alive and have made it this far.

  10. I can’t thank you enough for this 🙂 the hospital was right across the street from the house where I lived with my future husband and I always loved it (best neighbor I ever had!). I learned a lot of amazing things about this beautiful place from this post, things I wondered every day for three years when I woke up and looked at it from my bedroom :)<3

  11. Your pictures were awesome thanks for posting. I’ll have to tell my sisters about your website. They will enjoy them.

  12. I lived up the street from the hospital moving from Brownsville in 1965..my older sister and brother were born there. My two sisters and I came to Brownsville this past July (2013). We took pictures on the porch of the hospital and the porch of the nurse’s home across the street. Very eerie not knowing if squatters maybe just inside the buildings. Downtown Brownsville is sadly almost a ghost town. There is a shop just up from the UNION STATION BUILDING on main street. We were told that all the buildings that have been closed and boarded up most do not have roofs and the floors are not stable. So anyone thinking about exploring any of these cool buildings should beware of the excitement of exploring but you may fall through the floors or be surprised by unwelcome squatters that live in them. We were thinking of just the same idea as others. But glad we spoke to the shop owner about how bad of shape these building’s are in. These are such beautiful buildings, it’s so sad to see that they are just left to decay and pose potential life threatening has sands to us just wanting to get a glimpse of how gorgeous these buildings were back in the day.

    1. I went looking for the hosipital. I found one that looks completely different from the one in the picture. Does any one know the address of this hospital?

  13. Cool pics. I went up to see this place. I was tempted to go in and take a look around but I didn’t want to go alone. I wanted to see what all the other rooms looked like. Old places like this are so cool. I love exploring them.

  14. Is this place watched/patrolled by security/or cops? Bc I’d love to explore it but I’d comming from Maryland so I definitely want it to worth my drive. And if anyone would like to explore with me let me know.

  15. Wow! Awesome stuff! I love the photo on the third floor! Excellent work! I have to ask, how in the world were you able to get access to the building? Thank you alot for putting up the site, I love looking at all the photos.

    Philip

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