SIUH’S SOUTH SITE HAS BEEN SERVING THE BOROUGH FOR 100 YEARS AND COUNTING
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMESSE PHOTOGRAPHY
It was sometime during the early 1900s when local philanthropist Berta Dreyfus invested a hefty sum of her own personal money into the future of Staten Island healthcare. Donating $100,000 (that amount would equate to over $1 million today) to the former Richmond Memorial Hospital to build a three-story, 64-bed, brick-and-terracotta facility in Prince’s Bay that would replace the hospital’s original wooden structure, Dreyfus was considered a forward-thinking contemporary who took on a very active role in the site’s planning and development.
“She was heavily involved in this organization, and to really push this forward and play an active role in this place for decades gives you an idea of how forward thinking she really was,” noted Dr. Brahim Ardolic, executive director of Staten Island University Hospital, which merged with Richmond Memorial in 1987, and recently celebrated the storied institution’s centennial anniversary.
“She was having these conversations and doing these things before women had the right to vote,” Dr. Ardolic continued. The widow of Louis Dreyfus, who earned his fortune developing a synthetic compound used by Wrigley’s to enhance its popular Juicy Fruit, Spearmint, and Doublemint stick gums, Berta played an instrumental role in the institution’s progress. When Richmond Memorial Hospital officially opened its doors on September 18, 1920, she was undoubtedly proud of its 25 beds, staff of eight attending physicians, one resident doctor, and 19 hospital workers.
“This small community hospital has provided Staten Island with more than a century of care,” noted Dr. Theodore Strange, SIUH’s chairman of medicine. “From a wooden farmhouse to the modern structure we have today, this facility has been protecting the borough for quite some time.”
In its early years, the hospital itself was challenged by the influenza outbreak of 1918 and the financial hardships of the Great Depression. But Richmond Memorial persevered and even expanded in the early 1930s to include a residence for nurses, then again in 1935, doubling its patient capacity. Advancements in medicine allowed the organization to offer some of the country’s first influenza vaccines in 1945 and groundbreaking balloon angioplasty and stent treatments in the 1990s.
Merging with Staten Island Hospital to become Staten Island University Hospital in 1987, and then announcing its affiliation with North Shore LIJ in 1996, officially becoming a part of Northwell Health in 2015, the hospital has dramatically expanded throughout its 100-year existence. Before 1988, the emergency department contained only four beds; today the ER handles close to 35,000 visits each year.
“We’ve seen tremendous improvement in patient satisfaction screenings over the years, and major changes in the structure of the facility itself resulted in vast improvements in the overall look and function of the institution,” said Dr. Ardolic.
In 2020 at the height of the global pandemic, the site played an integral role as a COVID contained hospital.
“There is no question that the role of community hospitals is changing dramatically in the United States, and the South site has to change along with it. We’re going to look to do more advanced surgical procedures here and make sure the South site continues to meet the needs of this Island for the next 100 years, just like it has for the last 100 years.”
The staff at SIUH’s Prince’s Bay location takes pride in caring for their neighbors. The longevity of the employees proves it.
“This hospital is an important part of the Staten Island community,” noted Dr. Ardolic. “There are certain things that you have to drive up Hylan Boulevard for, to go to the North site for some advanced procedures, but this place will always be your first line of defense, where you come for your basic healthcare needs. It’s really played a tremendous role in keeping Staten Island well.”
Staten Island University Hospital Foundation
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