Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bethany Medical Center

My first commercial customer, when I first started in the photography business in 1973, was Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. I started out processing High Contrast Copy Film for making slides from X-Rays, but soon began photographing employees, doctors, banquets, and even surgery. Bethany was very advanced in those days, having developed CPR and the world’s first coronary care unit. The term “Code Blue” came from Bethany.

While working with Bethany I had the privilege of photographing some very early open heart surgery. When Bethany Medical Center got one of the first CT Scanners in the Mid-west I was there to photograph its installation.

This week I was in the area and drove by 51 North 12th. There is no sign that there was ever a hospital there. I distinctively remember the beautiful buildings and photographing the construction photos of the multi-level parking garage where there is now just dirt and grass.

Bethany was the victim of an idiotic health care system, one of the worst among industrialized nations, where they were unable to survive because they had too many uninsured patients. In other words, by providing essential high-quality care in an underserved area, they went bankrupt. What a waste of resources, talent, and money.

Oddly the junkie houses that surrounded the hospital thirty years ago are still there and appear to be unchanged. Driving through the neighborhood I felt a sense of despair remembering the hope and excitement that surrounded this hospital not that many years ago.

The nine acre lot sold for $50,000 not long ago to a non-profit that hopes to build a senior living center, but so far, it remains an empty lot.