Saranac Lake’s tuberculosis economy

Part II — Enterprise, Jan. 12, 1951

In this space last week we reported on the construction of Saranac Lake’s new medical center, which was dedicated on May 7, 1967, plus a report from a meeting of 75 businessmen and many doctors held at the Hotel Saranac in 1951 about the future of health care in the village.

Follows, then, is another detailed story about the health care industry in the village in 1951.

Trudeau Sanatorium

“No one in Saranac Lake needs to be reminded of the importance of Trudeau Sanatorium to the economy of Saranac Lake. With a budget, in 1950, of $625,000, most of which is spent locally, is the largest semi-private unit among the health services in town. Under the presidency of Dr. Francis B. Trudeau, son of Dr. Edward L. Trudeau, who found the sanatorium in 1885, most of the money needed to meet the annual deficit is raised by campaigns out-of-town. There is always a deficit — Trudeau has never charged patients the full cost of their care.

“Trudeau has at times had its own problems in attracting new patients but the figures of admission over the past 15 years show no change comparable to the decrease in the number of private patients in the town. Trudeau has a capacity of 200. New patient registrations have been:

“Trudeau continues to attract patients, not only from various parts of the United States but from foreign countries. Among those listed, from 14 foreign countries in the past three years, have been patients from Iraq, China, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Korea, Norway, Korea, Siam, Turkey, Trinadad, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Argentina.

“Any survey of the patient population at Trudeau over the past twenty years shows one striking fact: more than 25 per cent of the patients have been and continue to be medical personnel — doctors and nurses who have contracted tuberculosis in the course of their studies. These patients have specifically chosen Trudeau over all other facilities in the country.”

[I can give testimony to a slice of that history. I was a waiter in the large, elegant dining room at Trudeau in the summer of 1948 …linen tablecloths and the finest tableware. There were two large tables located at the front of the dining room. Ten nurses were seated at one and 10 doctors were seated at the other.]

Cure cottage history

“Back in 1876 when Saranac Lake had 400 people, a tuberculosis person, name unknown, checked in at the local hotel – a place that became the Riverside Inn [visible in today’s Picture of the Week.] After Dr. Trudeau settled in the town, other patients came. They found what accommodations they could, in private homes or in the hotel. Somewhat later, the Berkeley Hotel was built especially to house patients. Houses and cottages went up, dedicated to the same end.

“The ‘cure cottage,’ as it has always been called, has thenceforth always been a feature of health services in Saranac Lake. There number has been an accurate index of the extent to which those services are being used. Along with the drop in the number of patients coming, the list of open cure cottages shows precisely the same drop. Thirty-five years ago there were 150 such places. At this moment in 1951, there are 32 — the lowest count in the town’s history.

“Early in the town’s history the Board of Health forbade patients to stay more than a night or so in the local hotels. That ruling, still enforced, unhappily does not exist in some other Adirondack towns. Cure Cottages became a necessity in the town. Patients came who did not like sanatorium care and many had the resources and could pay for high end accommodations.”

[That certainly is what gave rise to the beautiful, three-story “Santanoni Apartments” located at 36 Church St. The building had a spacious dining room, elevator service and housed 27 apartments. I was familiar with the establishment because it was on my Enterprise paper route.]

Something new in TB care

“A group of doctors from Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and other areas, sat in a room at Sunmount Hospital in Tupper Lake a few weeks ago, at a regular weekly consultation. They viewed a dozen case histories and x-rays and made suggestions for the next steps to be taken with each patients.

“When the job was done, one of the doctors said, ‘Do you realize that ten years ago we did not know of a single one of the technics we have just suggested?’

“Any patients who cured in Saranac Lake twenty years ago, were to return would find that bed rest and exercise are still important in any cure. Today, however, the doctors have tools and technics they did not have in those days, or even, in some instances, four years ago.

“Until a few years ago there was no medicine that any doctor could provide for tuberculosis. Today, in Saranac Lake, as in every other tuberculosis center in America, the prescription of the antibiotic, streptomycin, and the chemical, P.A.S., is routine for many patients.”


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