Lakeland, Gloucester Township

Besides Cooper, West Jersey, and Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Camden residents used other medical facilities over the years. Some, like the Municipal Hospital and Belleview Hospital, both long closed, were in the city limits. One in particular, the County Hospital at Lakeland, was not, and is worth writing about.

In a wiser time, Camden County provided for its indigent and for those whose mental and physical and mental health posed a threat to the general community by operating a series of facilities in the isolated Lakeland area of Gloucester Township. The thought of operating facilities of this in the middle of a populated city or town was properly considered absurd, especially in an era where communicable diseases such as tuberculosis ran rampant.

The County operated its Alms House.... today we would call this a homeless shelter... at Lakeland, and in 1872 an infirmary was opened which developed into the County General Hospital, which is no more. Other facilities were built at the Lakeland Complex after this. Times may change, and names may change, but it is interesting to see what was not meant to be side by side with the tax-paying public..... before someone had the frankly stupid idea to put all of it in the center of Camden.

Social services have their place, but they have no greater claim to location than the general public, the taxpayer, the businessman, the student. Social service programs whose activities HARM everyone whom they do not serve should NOT be located where they can cause harm

The table below lists what was once at Lakeland and the "modern day translation". 

Almshouse Homeless Shelter
Insane asylum (Later renamed Mental Hospital) Drug Rehab Center
Tuberculosis Asylum AIDS House

 It is worth noting that by May of 1964, the shelter for children, which had been operated within the City of Camden for over 70 years at 915 Haddon Avenue and later on Kaighn Avenue, had been relocated to Lakeland. This facility has become more of a juvenile detention center than a shelter over the years. Centrally located shelters for children have been eliminated, and our unfortunate children have been left to dependence on a foster care system which has proved to be an abject failure. 

Phillip M. Cohen
September 16, 2005


Lakeland Medical Facilities Had Humble Start in 1872

The Alms House Infirmary opened in 1872 in what was then known as Blackwoodtown.

From this humble beginning there have grown at Lakeland: the Camden County General Hospital, Hospital for Chest Diseases, Mental Hospital, Camden County Alms House and the Shelter for Children.

In 1926 a receiving building and surgical building, two stories in height, were built as additions to the infirmary. The additions still stand. The original building does not.

In 1933 the Camden County Gen­eral Hospital was built on the site of the original infirmary.

Mrs. Gray Served Many Years

Mrs. Marie C. Gray came to the hospital as chief nurse in 1928 and was made superintendent the following year. She remained until last October when she re­tired and was succeeded by Miss Helen Price.

"The situation in the early days was, a great challenge," recalled Mrs. Gray who visits the hospital three days weekly in an advisory capacity. "There was no profes­sional staff and only one attend­ing physician. The freeholders felt then there was no real care for the patients and that a pro­fessional staff should be developed.

"I was appointed from year to year. I had a reputation as a disciplinarian and never knew whether or not I'd be reappointed. My task was to develop a teaching program for attendants, revise the dietary department and institute a better personnel program. At that time there were no hours off. We started then by giving two hours off per day and a half day per week. The working personnel lived on the grounds."

Patients Paid Little

Mrs. Gray recalled that when she started all financial aid came from Camden County and small amounts paid by patients. This total from the patients was only $4,600 her first year. Now the total from patients, including state aid, is around $500,000. This item is called cash receipts and  comes from Social Security, private funds, welfare grants, insurance and Blue Cross.

In 1933 the present seven-story, 200·bed hospital was constructed. Working personnel has jumped from 24 in 1928 to 249 in 1964. These include registered nurses, practical nurses, attendants, laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians, physical therapists and their aides, Social Service and office workers and others. There was one clerk in 1928.

The home care program, is a favorite topic today with Mrs. Gray, Miss Price and Dr. Nathan Asbell, medical director.

Dr. Asbell said: "The home care program is designed to increase medical services in Camden County. Its purpose is to bring to the patients of Camden County hospital facilities without hospitalization.”

Complete Facilities

"By providing these hospital services at home, convalescence will be shortened, rehabilitation enhanced and recovery assured. This program provides every med­ical facility necessary for rehabilitation that is obtainable in a hospital. There is no set standard for rehabilitation."

Dr. Asbell continued that the goal is that the best individual medical result be obtained and "the patient be returned to so­ciety as a useful citizen. We further believe that by providing these services at home, the patient is placed in an environment that is most conducive to his quick recovery."

Freeholder Hahn is now di­rector of institutions. He succeeded Freeholder Sandone.

IN BLACKWOODTOWN stood this Almshouse Infirmary in 1872. The ancient building became outmoded and yielded in 1933 to the Camden County General Hospital which was erected on the same site