Salvation Army Sells Maternity Pioneer Booth For $2.85m

Posted: September 19, 1986

Booth Maternity Center, the 18-bed hospital in Overbrook that has been a pioneer in maternity care for the past 15 years, has been sold by the Salvation Army.

It was bought for $2.85 million by Maternal and Family Activities Inc., a non-profit agency that was organized to purchase and operate the hospital.

The hospital, at City and Overbrook avenues, will be renamed the John B. Franklin Maternity Hospital and Family Center in honor of Booth's late medical director and co-founder.

The Salvation Army, which has owned the institution since 1962, announced two years ago it had to sell the hospital for financial reasons, said Emily Klenk, the army's director of community relations.

"We couldn't continue to operate it because of financial considerations," she said.

The hospital originally was a home for single mothers, but in 1971 it was converted to a maternity hospital for all women.

Kitty Ernst, a board member of the new ownership group who has been involved with the hospital since its conversion, said the institution now will be able to preserve its role as a pioneer in natural childbirth with an emphasis on total family involvement.

"Now that we've overcome so many hurdles, we can go into really studying what normal birth is all about," she said. "We spend millions of dollars for naturalists to go out to jungles and hang from trees to study the reproduction of other species in their natural habitat, but we've never really done that with the human species. I hope that Booth, now Franklin, can do some of that."

The hospital specializes in providing maternity care primarily by certified nurse/midwives who practice in teams with obstetricians.

In 1971 it pioneered the now-accepted concept of encouraging families to participate in childbirth by permitting fathers inside the delivery room at the time of birth.

The hospital now delivers about 1,200 babies a year.

When the Salvation Army announced that it wanted to sell the hospital, its advocates feared it would close or its philosophy would be changed. The group that bought the hospital was formed by women who had given birth at Booth and others who wanted to save the institution.

First Pennsylvania Bank provided $1.2 million of the financing for the

purchase with a $1 million loan guarantee from the Ford Foundation.

"Booth will be offering very special service to Delaware Valley women and

families for a long time and we look forward to helping them do it," said Dr. Stuart Shapiro, divisional vice president at First Pennsy.

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