Good Samaritan President Eloise Broner said that a decade ago, when she first had the opportunity to work at the hospital, she asked former president Jim Pancoast what she should expect.
“I will always remember his response. He said to me, ‘You will be there for one week and it will feel like home. It is a family.’ I will tell you no truer words have ever been spoken,” she said.
The hospital for many wasn’t just a workplace, but an identity. It was an employer that provided not just a paycheck but a life’s calling, where careers were launched and professional milestones reached.
Now the northwest Dayton hospital is closing its doors for the last time at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The change has left employees trying to sort out a new reality where they will clock in at new workplaces with new faces, and where their children will be born somewhere other than where past generations have been born.
About 850 current and past employees attended a picnic Saturday in Dayton to gather together before the hospital closes.
When the closing announcement was made in January, around 1,600 people worked at the main campus. It is not just one of the largest workplaces in Dayton, but also a place that brought together entry-level employees and high-paid subspecialty physicians under one roof, while also while also providing a steady stream of work for contractors.
Dayton-based Premier Health, which operates Good Samaritan, said job offers were made to anyone who applied to work at another location in the health network.
As these longtime co-workers prepare to disperse, those gathered at what was dubbed the “Good Samaritan family picnic” swapped information on which Premier facility they were moving to, making mental notes about where their friends were now posted.
When explaining the meaning of the hospital, many highlighted not just their personal experiences but also spoke with pride on the history and role of Good Samaritan in the community.
The hospital was built from 1928 to 1932 on farmland and it was what spurred the rest of the neighborhood construction around it.
While the number of hospital overnight stays and length of stays is now falling, at the time that Good Samaritan was built, a series of articles in the Dayton Daily News sounded the alarm about a critical shortage of hospital beds in Dayton.
One 1928 article said orders were given to police to cease taking patients to Miami Valley Hospital because of overcrowding and stated that “the occupancy problem at Miami Valley has become so acute the city official was informed that if any more patients are recieved they will have to be placed on tables instead of beds.”
The articles said the proposed 250-bed Good Samaritan could help middle-income residents with services, with St. Elizabeth already able to provide for charity care and with the rich able to access the care they sought.
A community fund drive, led by Standard Register founder John Q. Sherman, beat its goal of raising $1 million in 10 days, getting $14,000 in excess pledges. The Sisters of Charity provided $500,000 in addition.
Mark Oxman, president of the Good Sam medical staff, said he’s proud of the work done at the hospital and highlighted some of the medical history, like the cardiac care achievements.
“From a personal note, this is much more than a building to me and to everybody here. It’s all the people that we’ve gotten to know,” Oxman said.
He recalled a former dialysis patient who had to be hospitalized for a week but was supposed to have a wedding.
The couple ended up having the ceremony in the hospital courtyard. Oxman gave away the bride and Oxman’s wife, Stacie, whom he met working at Good Sam, had scrambled ahead of time to find gluten-free cupcakes to accommodate the bride’s allergy.
“I think it just exemplifies how our family was a family. We helped another family become a family,” Oxman said.
Sherry Gross said her first job at the hospital in 1979 was as a phlebotomist, and that job helped her find her calling as a nurse.
Gross knew she wanted to work in medicine and begged her cousin at the hospital lab to help her get a job. Her original dream was to be an obstetrician, but Gross said as her job took her all over the hospital and introduced her to all types of careers, she changed her mind.
“I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. I wanted to be a nurse because it was the nurse who actually takes care of the patients 24/7. And so that’s what changed my mind and made me go into nursing and I never regretted it,” said Gross, now a nurse manager in cardiac diagnostics.
Gross said the reason she wanted to work at Good Samaritan was the welcoming culture she had seen. “It just felt like I was home. And it did actually become my second home. My mom used to get on me when I was young because I would spend more time at work than when I was home,” she said.
Lucinda Nash said she didn’t expect to build a 40-year career at the hospital when she started in 1978 in housekeeping. But she did stay and over the years advanced into medical billing.
“I learned to love this hospital because the hospital loved me,” Nash said.
The hospital formerly ran a nursing school on site that graduated 1,600 from 1932 to 1972.
Sherry Brown, who graduated from the School of Nursing in 1962, said she didn’t have the money to go to school to become a nurse but was able to attend the Good Sam program if in return she worked there for a year after graduating.
“And I thought, that’s simple,” said Brown, who went on to work there until 2006 and also delivered her four children at the hospital.
“It’s a very giving hospital. The fact that it’s leaving, I still can’t believe it. I’ll be probably sobbing the loudest when they take it down,” she said.
Sister Carol Bauer, while not the president of Good Samaritan, was described by Broner as the matriarch of the hospital’s family of staff.
Bauer is with the Sisters of Charity — the Catholic order that helped found the hospital. She’s one of the most recongizable faces of the hospital and has told the history of Good Samaritan to countless new hires.
With a sharp sense of humor and a passion for the hospital’s role in the community, Bauer was named Vice President of Mission Effectiveness and is known for caring deeply about the northwest neighborhoods where she lives, works and volunteers.
At the picnic, Bauer urged the hospital staff going forward to continue to care about the community.
“We need to reach out and make sure that we are paying attention to the needs of our citizens. Especially those most in need,” Bauer told the crowd.
“That building at the corner of Salem and Philadelphia is not Good Samaritan. Good Samaritan Hospital is in the hearts of every one of you,” she said, drawing a standing round of applause.
Since the hospital’s closing was announced, Bauer has been continuously stopped in the hallways and visited in her office by employees wanting to give her a hug and make sure she was going to be taken care of after the hospital closes.
Bauer plans to help with the final closing of Good Samaritan and with helping find the right home for the religious and historical artifacts there before eventually retiring and having time to volunteer like she wants to.
P. J. Luttrull-Priest was an administrative assistant at Good Sam, now at Upper Valley Medical Center, and said she had left for different locations and came back to Good Sam several times. “It’s a very tight knit group of people. … We’ve been through deaths, births, weddings, divorces and everybody shares that emotion. It’s just family,” she said.
Mona Myers, who works part-time at the gift shop after years as a payroll supervisor, sat at a picnic table with Luttrull-Priest and said she was born there and so were her children.
“It’s in your heart. It’s in your blood. Especially since that was my family’s home hospital … it’s a forever thing,” she said.
“We’ll always be Good Samaritan,” said Luttrull-Priest.
“Even when they say Good Sam North is changing names, I’m sorry but it will always be Good Sam North. It just always will be,” said Myers.
“And to see that building torn down, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be hard.”
“We’ll always be Good Samaritan.”
“I also think it’s like Sister (Carol Bauer) said. It’s not the building. It’s people,” Myers said. “We’re just bonded. And we’ve formed these relationships where 41 years later I’m still asking about people, though now it’s about their grandkids. It’s been a wonderful place that’s been very good to me. I feel like I’ve given it my best also, but it’s been very good to me.”