Literature Annotations


de Hartog, Jan
The Hospital


Genre Memoir
KeywordsCaregivers, Childbirth, Hospitalization, Human Worth, Patient Experience, Poverty, Power Relations, Racism, Scapegoating, Society
Summary

The author came to Houston in 1962 as a visiting professor. While there, he and his wife decided to become volunteers at "J.D." (Jefferson Davis), the county hospital. They found that the hospital was overcrowded, understaffed, over-bureaucratized, and very poorly supported by the county. In particular, they found that the volunteer corps (Women-in-Yellow) was primarily involved in clerical work, rather than providing service to patients.

Marjorie de Hartog wished to form a group that would feed and nurture infants in the nursery, but the hospital authorities thought that was out of the question. This book is an account of how the de Hartogs, their Quaker community, and other Houston citizens developed a significant volunteer presence at "J.D." and, in the process, became aware of the frightful state of patient care. They became activists supporting the opening (and better funding) of a new public hospital.

Commentary

After this book was published in 1964, the de Hartogs were almost literally run out of town by the irate media and power structure of Houston. However, a referendum in January 1965 approved a new "hospital district," with a budget separate from the county's, to run the new hospital. The furor eventually died down.

Twenty-five years later, de Hartog was invited back to Houston by Baylor's Department of Family Medicine to give a talk, and he later settled there. To quote Frank Slaughter's New York Times review, The Hospital "is a deeply moving account of the efforts of a group of dedicated people to find the answer to the question posed in the parable of the Good Samaritan: 'Which one now . . . was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?' "

PublisherHarper Perennial
Edition1991
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 01/17/95
Last Revised 05/12/06