Froedtert Hospital

Click the image to learn more. Froedert Hospital, right, forms part of the Milwaukee Regional Medical center, along with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The centerpiece of the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Froedtert Hospital serves as the teaching affiliate of the Medical College of Wisconsin. Froedtert opened in 1980 after nearly three decades of often halting planning that revolved around the trust left by Milwaukee malt baron Kurtis R. Froedtert.[1] A latecomer to Milwaukee’s health care scene, Froedtert Hospital, a private, non-profit entity, eventually supplanted cash-strapped County General Hospital in Wauwatosa.

In 1951, the year Froedtert died from cancer, he bequeathed a multi-million-dollar hospital trust to Milwaukee—the largest individual gift ever received by the city.[2] His will directed the trustees of his estate to make the funds available to the community for the creation of a teaching hospital with a “definite preference for those of the Lutheran faith.”[3] The broad language of the will, on the other hand, allowed planners leeway so long as the general intent was fulfilled.[4]

A study commissioned in the 1950s surveyed the state of health care in Milwaukee and recommended the County Grounds as a site for the future hospital.[5] Planning delays occurred when the financially troubled—and Catholic affiliated—Marquette University School of Medicine entered negotiations with the Froedtert estate, prompting a lengthy lawsuit by the Lutheran Men of America.[6] The group settled with the trustees in 1965, procuring an agreement that gave them a voice in the hospital’s planning and organization.[7] Planning also progressed when Marquette severed its connection with its medical school two years later. The independent school that emerged, the Medical College of Wisconsin, became eligible for public funding, relocated to the County Grounds, and opened in 1978.[8] Finally, legislation in the 1960s allowed private hospitals to lease county land, paving the way for Froedtert’s groundbreaking in 1977.[9]

Completed in 1980, Froedtert Hospital sat five hundred feet west of County General Hospital.[10] Froedtert and County General initially split services, creating what locals dubbed “two half hospitals.” This state of affairs continued until Milwaukee County, facing serious financial difficulties, in part from the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, terminated its role as a direct health care provider in 1995 and sold its facility to Froedtert.[11] The agreement of sale stipulated that Froedtert temporarily continue County General’s responsibility as a provider of care for the indigent and uninsured while the County developed a new system.[12] After overhauling the General Assistance Medical Program (GAMP), the County became a buyer of health care while Froedtert, at the County’s direction, began forging stronger relationships with community clinics, designed to provide the poor with localized service funded by GAMP.[13]

Staffed by physicians and students from the Medical College, Froedtert provides the region with advanced medical care and offers complex surgical procedures.[14] The hospital’s center for re-attaching severed extremities is one of the nation’s largest.[15] Its nurses operate on the innovative “7-70 plan,” whereby nursing teams work ten-hour shifts for seven days before receiving an entire week off.[16]

More than three decades since breaking ground, Froedtert Hospital, financially sound, has continued to expand its facilities at the Regional Medical Center and beyond.[17]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Earl R. Thayer, Seeking to Serve: A History of the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, 1846-1996 (Wauwatosa, WI: Vilar Arts, 1996), 133. James F. King, The Incredible Journey: The Emergence of Froedtert Hospital and Southeastern Wisconsin’s Academic Medical Center (Milwaukee: Froedtert Hospital, 2007), 8. Froedtert’s generosity to Milwaukee’s hospitals and medical schools is alleged to have stemmed from his earlier wish to become a physician.
  2. ^ Thayer, Seeking to Serve, 133; King, The Incredible Journey, 8.
  3. ^ Quoted in Thayer, Seeking to Serve, 134.
  4. ^ Thayer, Seeking to Serve, 134.
  5. ^ Steven M. Avella, “Health, Hospitals, and Welfare: Human Services in Milwaukee County,” in Trading Post to Metropolis: Milwaukee Country’s First 150 Years ed. Ralph M. Aderman (Oconomowoc, WI: C.W. Brown Printing, 1987), 239; King, The Incredible Journey, 11-16. Froedtert also entered into negotiations with the Milwaukee Sanitarium in Wauwatosa, located less than one mile from the County Grounds.
  6. ^ Avella, “Health, Hospitals, and Welfare,” 239. The Medical School was not jointly incorporated with Marquette University but was still considered by many to be a Catholic university. Marquette University School of Medicine had received support from Kurtis Froedtert over the years. See King, 8-10.
  7. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 30. The Kurtis R. Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital Corporation had planning, organization, and financial autonomy, but the trustees maintained control of all assets.
  8. ^ Avella, “Health, Hospitals, and Welfare,” 241.
  9. ^ Thayer, Seeking to Serve, 136.
  10. ^ Thayer, Seeking to Serve, 136.
  11. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 99, 131-2; Gretchen Schuldt, “County Board Pulls Plug on Doyne Hospital,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 14, 1995, accessed, March 10, 2014,,4018013.
  12. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 132; Randall R. Bovbjerg, Jill A. Marsteller, and Frank C. Ullman, Health Care for the Poor and Uninsured after a Public Hospital’s Closure or Conversion (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute), 9, 11.
  13. ^ Staci Young et al., “The Milwaukee General Assistance Medical Program: Patient Perspectives on Primary Care in an Urban Safety Net,” Wisconsin Medical Journal 103 (2004), accessed March 12, 2014. Froedtert received the General Assistance funds that had been going to County General for two years, which amounted to about $60 million.
  14. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 119.
  15. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 119.
  16. ^ King, The Incredible Journey, 109.
  17. ^ Guy Boulton, “Froedtert Plans $117 Mission Expansion, Renovation,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 2012, accessed March 15, 2014.


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