By SARA ARTHURS
At 85, Bill Ruse is the author of three recent books, among them “A History of Blanchard Valley Hospital,” where he was chief executive from 1964 to 2000.
Ruse said he came up with the idea for the book on the history of the hospital — part autobiography and part history — when he was “going through a bunch of drawers” and came across old newspaper articles.
“I’m at the age where tomorrow I could be pushing up roses,” Ruse said, adding he thought the information should be shared. As he went through his clippings, they conjured up memories. The hardest part, he said, was determining what year a specific incident had occurred.
Among the events recounted in his book is the blizzard of 1978. Ruse recalled he had gotten home the day before from a planning meeting in Lima. It was raining and there were “ominous predictions” of worse weather. About 3 a.m., he could hear ice pellets hitting his home.
The next morning, almost none of the people who worked at the hospital could report to work. But Ruse, who at the time lived on Glendale Avenue, could.
One cook also lived nearby, but “there was nobody else in the kitchen.”
At first there was only one doctor, an obstetrician. The nurses who had worked the night before had all stayed on. “They couldn’t get out,” Ruse said.
Ruse went down to the hospital kitchen, and helped the cooks prepare eggs.
“I remember one of our nurses calling the kitchen and suggesting that we limit the number of eggshells in the scrambled eggs,” he wrote.
Even some of the patients in the hospital — the less sick ones — asked “How can we help?”
In the book he recounts the story of the blizzard’s “first emergency patient.” A cardinal lay freezing outside the hospital entrance, and staff brought the bird inside and placed it in a big match box. But when the doctor who they listed as the bird’s attending physician “reached in to stroke him, the bird pecked his hand,” Ruse wrote.
The cardinal, which was admitted and given a patient chart, flew away after the blizzard subsided, but “I’m not sure he was officially discharged,” Ruse wrote.
When the sheriff at last called to ask what the hospital needed, the staff polled the patients, who asked for cigarettes. The sheriff’s department brought in 10 cartons of cigarettes by snowmobile.
Ruse said what he’s proudest of from his time leading the hospital is keeping the hospital independent, and leaving it in a financial position so it could stay that way.
More and more health care organizations are part of larger conglomerates, but “you can’t contribute to the community” in the same way “if you’re part of somebody else,” he said.
Medicare and Medicaid came into existence in 1965, and Ruse said the introduction of Medicare “materially changed health care.”
Medicare paid on the basis of the medical code, regardless of how long a patient stayed in the hospital. So if a patient spent three weeks in the hospital, but the average length of stay was three days, the hospital would get paid based on the smaller amount.
All of the sudden, “the emphasis was on keeping people out of the hospital” and focusing more on outpatient care, Ruse said. It led to a system where it made more sense for health systems to own their own nursing homes, and to have doctors’ offices under their umbrella, he said.
Ruse said the arrival of the “Columbus 10” transformed the hospital. This group of 10 physicians, who had become friends, wished to practice together and was considering different locations, but the doctors were eventually recruited to come to the Findlay area in the 1970s.
Before that, the hospital had had general surgeons, obstetricians and pediatricians, but not much specialty care. The Columbus 10 included doctors in specialties such as rheumatology, endocrinology and neurology.
This allowed Blanchard Valley to offer more of this care locally, when in the past the patients might have had to go to Columbus or Toledo.
And the Columbus 10 insisted that the hospital’s diagnostic services “would be the very best,” Ruse said. That led to better care in radiology and pathology.
Early in his career, Ruse said the ability to do medical tests was much more limited. “Now you can do 50 tests on one sample of blood,” and MRI and CT tests allow you to “see inside the skull.”
Ruse said writing the book involved “piecing together” the history from newspaper articles. But in addition to the facts about what happened, he also wrote his own “reflections,” little segments where he talks about decisions he had made with the perspective of hindsight.
Ruse also recently wrote a book with his granddaughters, who range in age from 16 to 22. It’s “The How-to Series — Technology for Seniors Book Two.” Ruse’s granddaughters wrote their own chapters, with topics including Facebook and Instagram.
And there’s “The World Beyond Tomorrow,” co-authored with Don Stansloski, which considers aspects such as health, transportation, climate and faith to determine what the world will look like in 2050.
Ruse is working on another book about Medicare for seniors. He said he got the idea after an attorney confessed to not understanding Medicare Advantage.
“I thought, ‘Nobody understands,'” Ruse said.
He also is interested in writing about continuing medical education. Ruse said in retirement, he needs to stay busy and can’t “just sit around.” And, he said, he doesn’t have hobbies like golf to occupy his time.
The book is available on Amazon in print and digitally. Signed copies are available through the Blanchard Valley Health Foundation or from Ruse himself.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs