Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Signing Bill Extending the Hill-Burton Act.

August 18, 1964

Members of the Congress, ladies and gentlemen:

Americans have always been great hospital builders. At home our first general hospital was built 25 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence--and both events occurred in the same city, Philadelphia.

Abroad, the men in many lands have first met America, and first understood the character of the American people, in hospitals that were built by American hands.

Since World War II the Federal Government and the States, working together under the Hill-Burton program, have made long studies to keep up with our growing needs.

I deeply regret that Senator Hill cannot be with us this morning. He is in the hospital and I think we should all send him our best wishes for an early return to the Senate and our deep gratitude for the efforts that he has made throughout the years in connection with this great program.

We have added more than 300,000 hospital and nursing home beds and have added nearly 2,000 other health facilities. Today, for every 10 hospital beds our growing population requires, 8 are already in place and available for use.

We have many new hospitals today in cities that are large and small. But many of our most important hospitals are too old. The hospitals which serve more than two-thirds of our population in nearly 200 metropolitan areas are obsolete, are out of date, are desperately in need of modernization. This legislation that I am signing today will help us get started on that long overdue job.

Our record on hospital beds is good. The record on nursing home beds is not so good. For every 10 nursing home beds that are needed to provide long-term care for older citizens, only 4 beds are in service now. With our population over 65 increasing by 1,000 every 24 hours, we need to catch up and this legislation that your Congressmen have passed will help us do that.

Good medical practice and good facilities are inseparable. America's families--old, young, and middle-aged--deserve the most modern hospital facilities.

We are meeting this demand. The 88th Congress, is not only the education Congress, it is, I am happy to say, the better health Congress. It has done more than any other Congress to provide the health facilities and the health manpower that the American people ought to have.

The Hill-Burton hospital construction program has been extended another 5 years, but Congress has also provided assistance for constructing mental health facilities, mental retardation facilities, the medical and dental schools that we need.

And Congress has helped to meet our health manpower needs by a program to overcome our critical shortage of nurses, a program to train more graduate public health personnel, and by providing assistance to students attending medical and dental and nursing schools.

We are supporting, as no nation on earth has ever supported, the strength of our medical profession. We are supporting them with modern facilities, with more and better trained manpower, and productive research in more and more fields. I believe that we are pursuing a sensible and yet a most responsible course.

Americans have no patience with mixing politics and medicine and there is going to be none of that.

Our American medical profession is the best that the world has ever known. Our only purpose is to help that profession, never to harass it. We are casting our vote for the medical profession's effectiveness, regardless of how that profession casts its own votes in our election.

So I want to congratulate all the Members of the Congress who are here this morning and the others who couldn't be here for their contributions on this bill. I want to especially congratulate my two old and dear friends and colleagues, Senator Lister Hill, about whom I spoke earlier, and my neighbor and friend for many years, Congressman Oren Harris.

Note: The President spoke in midmorning in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In the course of his remarks he referred to Senator Lister Hill of Alabama and Representative Oren Harris of Arkansas.

The Hospital and Medical Facilities Amendments of 1964 is Public Law 88-443 (78 Stat. 447).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Signing Bill Extending the Hill-Burton Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241948

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