Kirwood General Hospital, Detroit, Michigan

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KirwoodDr. Guy O. Saulsberry, a 1927 graduate of Howard University College of Medicine, founded Kirwood General Hospital in October 1943. After completing his medical internship at Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Saulsberry relocated to Detroit and opened offices near the Ford Motor Company plant in River Rouge, Michigan.

Dr. Saulsberry eventually moved to Detroit, and in 1942 he purchased an old mansion located at 301 East Kirby Street.  A year later Dr. Saulsberry opened Kirwood Hospital, complete with 27 beds.

Over time, Kirwood added two additional mansions to the facility, connecting two of the three with a passageway known as the “Annex.” The third building was used as a convalescent home.  Kirwood Hospital grew to as many as 50 beds during this time period.

Dr. Saulsberry converted Kirwood into a non-profit community hospital in 1958.  Over the next ten years, Kirwood General Hospital grew to a modern institution, expanding its capacity in 1967 to 161 beds and 12 medical departments.  Eight months later, Kirwood received its full, three-year accreditation from the Joint Commission.
Kirwood was a source of great pride in the black community, not to mention being the largest employer of AKirwood2frican Americans in the Detroit area.  Dr. Saulsberry noted during this time:  “We’d have to move toward the type of institution that could attract the young and highly trained Negro doctors who were coming out of school . . . fellows who would want pleasant surroundings and modern equipment and the finest of research facilities.  If we couldn’t offer all these things, we’d lose those fellows.”

Without question, Dr. Saulsberry faced many obstacles during this time period in American history, and eventually these challenges prevailed. Kirwood Hospital closed in 1974, joining the ranks of as many as 30 other black hospitals that once existed in Detroit.

Historically Detroit was among cities with the highest number of Black hospitals. Most of them were owned and operated by African Americans. According to Dr. George Myers, an African-American researcher at the University of Michigan, and head of the Kellogg African American Health Care Project, stated: “They were a source of pride to the people. They provided services when there was no other way to provide health care for Blacks.” Myers said the story of Black hospitals in Michigan is better described as “a bitter sweet story.”

Dr. Lonnie Joe, head of the Detroit Medical Society, a group of 400 Black physicians in southeast Michigan, said the absence of the hospitals, which existed at different times, helped create a health care crisis in the city. “A lot of the hospital success is trapped in the new approach of hospital dollars,” Joe said. “That style does not follow down the needs of community hospitals. What you find is physicians leaving those communities.” The result, according to Joe: “We have more uninsured and more underinsured. We are in a healthcare crisis.”

Photo credit: www.med.umich.edu

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Posted: October 9, 2014

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Category: All, Lost Hospitals, Michigan

+3 Comments
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  2. Nancy Wells says:

    Hello,
    what happened to the actual building?

  3. A C Metcalf says:

    I have to take issue with the statement that KGH was closed in the 1970s, as I left there in Sept 1983 to go overseas. I had been secretary to Dr. George C Evans, Chief Radiologist, for close to ten years. At the time, the hospital was located at 4059 West Davison, at the corner of West Davidson and Petoskey Street. If I recall correctly, there was a history involving a gift by Marva Louis, Joe Louis’s widow, to Dr. Guy O Saulsberry, Founder, that helped with his being able to obtain that facility which had been the Jewish Center of some kind. Dr. Saulsberry passed away while the hospital was at this location. I believe Dr. Alma Rose George, a surgeon, was Chief of Staff when I left. Johnny C. Brown was the Hospital Administrator at the time I left in 1983.

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