St Luke’s Hospital, 1950s.

In this concluding column, we are speaking to Mrs. Catherine Csencsitz, whose father served in the U.S. Army and whose mother was employed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her father later worked at Bethlehem Steel, and the family resided on Ridge Avenue in Allentown, close to Sacred Heart Hospital.

Catherine was born Oct. 30, 1950, and is sharing her parents’ hospital bill, so we can look back at health costs 71 years ago. Bethlehem Steel provided Blue Cross health insurance for thousands of its employees.

Looking at these hospital bills takes us back to another era:

  • Daily rate: $7
  • Baby’s board: 7 days (Mothers were confined to hospitals much longer than today.)
  • Anesthesia: $5
  • Surgical dressing: $2
  • Drugs: $2
  • Laboratory: $5
  • X-ray: $15
  • Bracelet: $1
  • Delivery room: $10

The total hospital charges were $96. The Blue Cross allowance was $95, meaning the balance paid by subscriber was $1.

The family physician was Dr. Stephen F. Seaman, M.D., 1408 Linden St., Allentown.

His delivery charge was $80. Blue Shield’s allowance was $60, so Mr. Swiderski’s bill was $20.

Her mother, Philamay Swiderski, and baby were reported on the bill as both doing fine.

Sacred Heart Hospital was founded in 1915. In 1912, a diphtheria surge brought a health crisis to the area. Sisters from the Missionary of Sacred Heart came from Germany to help the afflicted. It resulted in the formation of a new hospital.

The hospital had been purchased by St. Luke’s Health Network and continues to provide excellent medical services to the area.

In 1952, the Swiderski family purchased a new home in Bethlehem. In 1953, their son John was born in St. Luke’s Hospital in Fountain Hill.

St. Luke’s has a long history, dating back to 1873, when a group of Episcopal clergymen and concerned citizens agreed a hospital was needed in the Bethlehem area.

The Industrial Revolution brought iron and later steel, as well as the Lehigh Valley Railroad and numerous cement mills to the region. Thousands of workers were needed to run the railroads and plants so St. Luke’s was organized to serve the growing population.

Catherine’s brother, John, was born in the hospital. The St. Luke’s bill we have tells us:

  • Board: $63
  • Drugs: $1.50
  • Anesthesia: $12
  • Delivery room: $20
  • Laboratory: $5

The bill was slightly higher than Catherine’s birth bill at Sacred Heart.

Total charges were $130.50. The Blue Cross credit was $129.50. The patient’s credit was $3, leaving $2 due.

Blue Cross to the rescue!

Medicine has dramatically changed since 1950. Today, two large health networks serve our medical needs – Lehigh Valley and St. Luke’s health systems.

Do our readers recall when many of us were treated by physicians who had home offices in Northampton, Coplay, Egypt, Fullerton and Catasauqua? Can you name any of those former physicians?

We will see you in two weeks. Stay safe.


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