This is the second post of a three part series by Tammy and the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee (HRC). In December 2018, Lancaster community members were told UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster — one of only two hospitals in Lancaster City — was slated to close by March 1st. UPMC had owned the hospital for just over a year before choosing to close it; however, the hospital had previously stood as St. Joseph’s Hospital, an institution in the community for over 130 years.
This three part series written by the Lancaster HRC includes: Part one – a brief history of St. Joseph’s; Part two – A personal history of St. Joseph’s; and culminates with Part three – The Weekend of Action and final Chapel Service (February 2019). Although UPMC closed the hospital doors at the end of February, the Lancaster HRC has not stopped fighting. For more information contact Lancaster HRC coordinator Tammy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personal & Spiritual Connection of St Joseph Hospital and the Community of Lancaster, PA
Tammy Rojas, Co-Coordinator of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee with Put People First! PA, shares her personal connection to St Joseph Hospital:
My grandmother, Doris Wiley was born in 1928 and coming from a long line of poverty married at the age of 13 and moved with her new husband from Georgia where she was born, all the way to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where she spent the rest of her life. Coming from poverty and marrying young further education would not be an easy task to accomplish, jobs that paid enough to help support her family would be difficult for her to get and in the United States Careers women could get in general were limited during her time.
Shortly after my grandmother married my grandfather, Edward Wiley, the United States entered WWII and he was sent off to War. When he returned home from the war he got a job at a warehouse where he worked for many years until about the mid 1960’s where he then got a job as a janitor at St Joseph Hospital to help supplement the family’s income so my grandmother, Doris would be able to attend nursing school.
(Picture caption right: Local directory for Lancaster, PA from 1946)
My grandmother was a very hardworking woman and she wasn’t known to give up easily. In the mid 1960’s, when she was nearing 40 and still having 3 children to look after, she studied hard and became an LPN. After graduating she served the community of Lancaster in the Pediatrics department of St Joseph’s Hospital. She was the one person throughout my life that ever made me believe anything was possible and I could achieve any dream I wish to achieve and she protected me when no one else would. I was born in St Joseph Hospital June 1,1977, while she was still working there as an LPN. My mother had complications during birth so I was immediately placed into an incubation like chamber. Thanks to the great care my mother and I received that day we were both able to pull through. My grandmother, Doris Wiley, spent the last few minutes of her life on September 28,1988 at St Joseph Hospital. To this day I still regret not being able to say goodbye to the person I have always looked up to the most, the footsteps I always wanted to follow. I still remember the day I received the news, I was in 5th grade at George Ross Elementary school and they pulled me out of class to give me the news and I have never been the same since. St Joseph Hospital is the place of my birth and the place my grandmother’s spirit left her body. The only thing I have to remember my grandmother is an old Polaroid picture where she’s holding me in her lap and I appear to be about 2 years old. The spiritual connection I feel with St Joseph Hospital is the spiritual connection I feel to my grandmother. I fear the moment that hospital is demolished my final piece of spiritual connection with her will be lost and broken.
So for me fighting for this hospital means I’m fighting for my grandmother, fighting for my grandfather and fighting for the legacy of the entire working class because it’s our blood, sweat and tears that made St Joseph Hospital a place that will live in the hearts of many for years to come.—Tammy Rojas
Through the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee taking action on the closing of UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster (St Joseph) since December 2018 the community joined and shared their stories about the hospital.
My parents came to Lancaster, PA from Puerto Rico and it was difficult for my father to find work so he took a job working under the table. He got seriously hurt on the job, no insurance or workers comp he had trouble finding a hospital that would give him treatment until St Joseph Hospital. —Xavier Molina-Garcia
As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault I can’t be seen by a male doctor, it gives my serious PTSD and panic attacks that capacitate me for days. At UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster they are able to give me the extra attention and care I need because they are not so over capacity like Lancaster General Hospital. —Anne Winslow
That’s MY hospital, I know when I go to that hospital they will be able to give me the care I need without having to wait for hours or get rushed through like a number. —Matt Rosing
This hospital is important to the community and it’s important to the people in the neighborhood where the hospital is at, my neighborhood. We have many children and elderly that use that hospital and I can’t believe city government isn’t saying or doing nothing about it —Jose Rivera (Photo caption: Jose Rivera speaking at the vigil Sunday February 24th, 2019)
This is an important part of Lancaster History taking place here right now, it’s our blood sweat and tears that went into this hospital and it needs to be fought. —Ann Wenger
We pray to you God and thank you for the strength you have given us to fight this and we pray for the extra strength to keep on fighting this. —Pastor Kevin Brown