Riverside General Hospital History

The Houston Negro Hospital
In 1918, in answer to an appeal for assistance from several black doctors,(R.O. Roett, Charles Jackson, B.J. Covington, Henry E. Lee and F. F. Stone) Joseph S. Cullinan, a Houston philanthropist, established a fund to erect a fifty-bed hospital. Maurice J. Sullivan was hired as an architect. Sullivan was commissioned to design the new hospital, as well as to develop a master plan for the site. Construction
began in 1925.

The Houston Negro Hospital holds a particularly significant place in the history of both the black community and medical community in Houston and Texas. The Hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for black patients in Houston, and it provided a place for well trained Black physicians to work, who were not allowed to admit patients to the "Black Wards" of Houston's other hospitals.

The Houston Negro Hospital Nursing School, which was established soon after the Hospital was built, was the first such educational institution for the training of Black nurses in the City of Houston. The efforts of several prominent Houstonians, both Black and White, made possible the construction of both the Hospital and the Nursing School. The idea for a Hospital was developed and supported by members of the Black community, notably I. M. Terrell, the Hospital's first Administrator and the few but growing number of Black physicians. The City of Houston, as recommended by the Mayor, donated the land on which the Hospital was built. The furnishing were secured from a local army facility.

A wealthy Texas oilman, J. S. Cullinan, donated the $80,000.00 to build the Hospital. The dedication of the Houston Negro Hospital was held on June 19, 1926, a major holiday known as Juneteenth, commemorating the day Emancipation was put into effect in Texas. Although construction was not completed, the dedication went on as planned. During the ceremony, the Hospital's benefactor, J. S. Cullinan, was revealed to the public for the first time. A bronze tablet cast by The Tiffany Company was unveiled. The plaque stated that the building was erected "in memory of Lieutenant John Halm Cullinan", Cullinan's son, who died at the age of 36 after serving in France during World War I. The Hospital was "dedicated to the American Negro to promote self-help, to insure good citizenship and for the relief of suffering, sickness and disease among them." The Hospital was officially opened in July 1927.

At the onset, the entire staff was Black, and only Black Physicians practiced at the Houston Negro Hospital. Two of the most prominent and most respected early doctors were Benjamin C. Covington and Rupert O. Roett, who graduated from Meharry Medical School. The first Board of Directors was made up of local black businessmen, supported by an Advisory Council of prominent white Houstonians.

The Early Years of The Houston Negro Hospital- Meeting Healthcare Needs
Unique in its operation procedures, the Houston Negro Hospital was founded especially for those "who were not entitled to, and/or did not desire, free hospitalizations". Hospital membership were sold for six dollars per family per year. This may have been the first prepaid system of medical care in the region. Although it was not obligatory to be a member to receive care, members received free hospitalization for a limited number of days. This "insurance" was discontinued in 1938 because it was financially unsound.

The early years of the Hospital was not as successful as the founders had hoped. Few patients came during the first years. Several changes were implemented to improve the facilities. These improvements included the equipping of an X-Ray Department and adding a Laboratory. During 1929, the average number of patients per day was eight. The Total estimated Black population during that time was about 15,000.

The Nursing School opened in 1931, but had to close a few years later, not for a lack of students, but for a lack of patients in the Hospital. Financial problems plagued all institutions during the early 1930's and the Houston Negro Hospital was no exception. A political move to close the Hospital was thwarted by Community Leaders, determined to make the hospital work. Their efforts paid off, and by 1937 occupancy was up to 46 percent capacity. Community Chest funds were made available, and this allowed the Hospital to run on a sounder footing. The Hospital also received a $524,000 Trust for maintenance when J. S. Cullinan died in 1937.

In 1949 several changes were made in the physical plant to meet the needs for more beds and office space, and to correct conditions to meet new fire codes. Maurice Sullivan supervised these structural changes, and the installation of an air conditioning system. Remodeling was completed in

In 1957 a commission announced to plan a new wing to the Hospital. Application was made for Hill-Burton Funds to match those that the Hospital had inherited. Maurice Sullivan and his son, Charles designed the new wing, a two-unit, one story facility that contained 70 additional beds. The expansion program cost $1,235,000.00. When the addition was completed in 1961, the name of the institution was changed from The Houston Negro Hospital to Riverside General Hospital, Incorporated. The Houston Negro Hospital, School of Nursing/Laundry Buildings were designated as Historical Monuments and are listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

Riverside General Hospital 1961-1985

The Houston Negro Hospital was renamed Riverside General Hospital when an extension to the original building was completed in 1961. In the early 1970's Riverside like many other community hospitals, began experiencing difficulties. The expansion of Houston as a major medical market attracted medical staff from small hospitals to the larger medical facilities. The problems for Riverside were compounded when Black physicians and other medical personnel were allowed to practice in other hospital,taking their patients with them. By the end of the decade, Riverside had large operating deficits, a poor community image, and deteriorating staff moral.

Early in the 1980, questions were raised about the viability of Riverside, about whether it could, or should continue to exist as a full service community facility.
The answer was a confident "YES". The members of the Board of Trustees assumed an active role in setting policy and in establishing a Master Development Plan. In May, 1990, the Board of Trustees entered into a management agreement with a health services management consultant firm. A plan of action was implemented to correct the many problems and to innovative the financial posture of the Hospital.

Riverside made great strides, in 1983-84, in its effort to reestablish itself as an important source of primary health care and as a quality inpatient care facility. The Hospital had a "new look" after accomplishing the first phase of internal renovations, in addition to a new Administrative Team.

The first phase of the historical restoration began in 1984. The Texas Historical Commission approved a grant which was matched by a grant from the Houston family-based, Tenneco, Inc. These funds were used to replace windows and remove trash from the School of Nursing Building.

Also in 1984, renovations of the surgical suite, laboratory and patients rooms was completed and is ongoing. These improvements combined with the addition and development of exemplary staff provide our patients with excellent care.

It appeared that Riverside General Hospital had developed a momentum that would carry it successfully through 1985, the second year of the "Prescription for Progress", to a position favorably competitive to other hospitals in Houston.

Substance Abuse Treatment
Riverside General Hospital views addiction as a debilitating disease which negatively impacts individuals, their families and their communities. The Board of Trustees or Riverside General Hospital have allocated hospital resources and obtained governmental funding in excess of $7,000,000.00 to expand substance abuse treatment services.

Program Services
Riverside General Hospital has extensive experience in providing Level I (Medical Detoxification), Level II, (Residential) and Level III (Outpatient) substance abuse treatment programs for adults, adolescents and women with their children. Clients are introduced to models of recovery and are involved in 12-Step Support Groups. Beginning in 1972, Riverside was a pioneer in treating chemical dependency as a medical component addressing both addiction and mental health disorders.

Commitment to Caring
Beginning in 1995, Riverside General Hospital--being committed to serving the ever growing population, purchased the Houston Recovery Campus(re-named the Barbara Jordan Healthcare Facility) and the defunct Shoulder's Treatment Center(now named the Edith Irby Jones Healthcare Center. These purchases made substance abuse treatment available in three strategic locations throughout Harris County(Central, Southeast and Northeast) which continuously serves the Medically Underserved Areas and populations.

Riverside is in a unique position of possessing the history, the infrastructure and talent to serve individual and families in environments which are socially and economically depressed. Our position in the community has earned us a place of trust and respect among the people. Our longevity in the community has made our presence known and we are accessible to the people. Riverside's proud history of service, dedication to quality, and commitment has positioned itself to continue to be a major entity providing services to the community, particularly ethnic minorities and the medically underserved.