Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Health Care in Rochester - 1960s Style!

The recent debate about health care reform led me to think back to the way such things were handled when I was growing up in Rochester during the 1960s. First of all, Howard McGregor's cattle were grazing where Crittenton Hospital now stands, so before the fall of 1967 Rochester residents had to travel to Pontiac when they needed hospital care. Ambulance transportation was provided by the two funeral homes; in the mid-sixties the town got a regular ambulance company and Rochesterites could then call upon Frank St. Onge to haul their bones to Pontiac in one of his orange station wagons.

Needless to say, hospital visits were a rarity; most problems, even urgent ones, were handled by the family physician. When I was a kid, it seemed as though Doctors Kresge, Geist, Dayton and Siffring were taking care of most of the town, dealing with all of their patients' needs from cradle to grave.

Health insurance – if a family even had it – only covered the major expenses, like hospitalization. Visits to the doctor's office were an out-of-pocket expense, so we didn't go to the doctor for every ache, pain, sniffle or sneeze. Our health insurance for those kinds of ailments was the local pharmacy – Morley's, Hunter's or Cunningham's, depending upon personal preference – and the family medicine cabinet. (By the way, if you have any medicine bottles with these pharmacy labels in your cabinet, it's really time to clean it out.)

At the center of our medicine cabinet were two bottles that contained the cures for ninety percent of our medical problems: aspirin and Pepto-Bismol. Skin wounds got painted with Mercurochrome (it'll only sting for a minute). Other skin ailments, including rashes, scrapes and burns were treated with Mom's all-purpose tube of A+D ointment. Bug bites were covered with good old calomine lotion. Congestion due to colds called for Vicks VapoRub to be slathered on the chest. Sore throat? Pop a Parke-Davis throat lozenge (I wish I still had some of those – they were great). And last, but not least, all orthopedic problems from a strained muscle to a broken limb could be handled with an Ace bandage.

If a fever was suspected, Mom took our temperature with a glass tube mercury thermometer, and we didn't worry about it. Today, if you break one of those things the men in the haz-mat suits have to come in and decontaminate your building. It's amazing that we lived through childhood, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. I knew all four doctors you mentioned. Dr. Kresge was our neighbor when I was growing up. You are right about health care back then.....