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Hospital born of compassion


When Primary Gen. Pres. Louie B. Felt and her first counselor, May Anderson, saw crippled children struggling along the streets of Salt Lake City early in this century, they were moved to ask that a care facility be established for those children. That led to the establishment in 1922 of what became Primary Children's Hospital, according to information compiled by the public relations staff of the current Primary Children's Medical Center.

The hospital, exclusively for children, was opened in a home across the street north of Temple Square that was originally owned by Orson Hyde. President Heber J. Grant offered the dedicatory prayer on May 11, 1922, for what was officially known as the LDS Children's Convalescent Home and Day Nursery. The new facility fulfilled the Primary's wish for a place where children could be given longer post-operative care in a home-like environment. The hospital, under the direction of head nurse Anna Rosenkilde, had 35 beds. Its name was changed to Primary Children's Hospital in 1934.Nurse Rosenkilde saw the need for a better facility and approached President Heber J. Grant about the possibility in 1937. The Church began planning for a new hospital, but developments were held up because of World War II. Finally, in 1948, plans began moving forward again. Through the "Dimes for Bricks" campaign, Primaries throughout the Church helped pay for the new hospital in the north foothills of Salt Lake City at 320 12th Ave. Children and others who donated a dime for a brick had their name recorded on a list that was placed in a time capsule that was enclosed in the new building's cornerstone.

Other money was raised through "birthday pennies." Through that concept, begun in 1922, Primary children donated the number of pennies to match their age. After the new hospital was built, pennies were dropped into wooden or cardboard models of the building by children during Primary. "Primary Penny Song" was written and sung by the children, encouraging them to donate.

The first 35 children were moved into the new hospital during a severe snowstorm in February 1952. On March 2, President David O. McKay dedicated the hospital.

Its role was expanded over the ensuing years with a primary development being expansion from an orthopedic and chronic disease convalescent center to an acute care facility. More space was provided through additions to the building in 1961 and again in 1966.

In 1975, the Church created the independent, nonprofit Intermountain Health Care and transferred ownership of its hospitals, including Primary Children's Hospital, to that entity. Under IHC, a new medical center was built on the campus of the University of Utah and ties were established between the school and the hospital that benefit both. The medical center is the teaching facility for the university's Department of Pediatrics.

From May 1922 to June 1923, 83 children received care in the original forerunner of the Primary Children's Hospital. In 1996, the Primary Children's Medical Center cared for 34,562 individual children either as inpatients, in outpatient clinics, through the emergency room, or combinations of those three.

Following are other statistics provided by the Primary Children's Medical Center public relations department:

Among the 1924 diagnoses: tumors, 2; harelip, 2; club feet, 2; heart, 1. In 1996: 1,444 neoplasms (tumors); 306 cleft lip and palate; 111 cases club feet. Approximately 1,500 children are diagnosed with heart conditions each year, and about 150 children are newly diagnosed with cancer at Primary Children's.

The 1924 diagnosis list included cases of tubercular bone, infantile paralysis and rickets, conditions rarely seen today.

In 1924, patients came from six states and Canada. In 1996, children from 43 states and seven foreign countries were treated.

In the 1930s, the average length of stay was 158 days. In 1996, the average was 5.58 days.

Additional Information

Historical highlights

May 11, 1922 - The Primary Association opened the LDS Children's Convalescent Hospital in what was originally Orson Hyde's home at 40 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City.

1922 - Primary children began donating birthday pennies to support the hospital.

1934 - Name was officially changed by the Primary Association to Primary Children's Hospital.

Feb. 12, 1952 - Primary Children's Hospital moved to a new building at 320 12th Ave., which had a total of 70 beds, which was eventually increased to 170 beds.

Jan. 1, 1961 - The hospital expanded its mission from an orthopedic and chronic disease convalescent hospital to an acute care hospital.

1975 - The Church created an independent, nonprofit hospital corporation and transferred its hospitals, including Primary Children's Hospital, to the new entity.

1977 - Primary Children's and the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics entered into a cooperative agreement in which the hospital became the school's pediatric teaching facility, opening the way for many additional medical specialties to be offered.

April 23, 1990 - The hospital moved to its present home on the University of Utah campus where it is currently licensed for 232 beds, and many children receive care through its outpatient clinics.

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