Hospital turns 50 on Sunday

Published 8:10 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

Memorial Hospital and Manor will reach an important milestone this year as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Memorial Hospital was officially dedicated on Sunday, April 3, 1960, and opened its doors to receive patients the following day.

The 80-bed hospital was built under the Hill-Burton Hospital Survey & Construction Act of 1946, which initiated the concept of local, state and federal cost sharing of health care facilities, and provided federal funds for construction and renovation of more than 9,000 medical facilities, particularly in lower income areas.

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While two-thirds of the money was provided by the federal government and the State of Georgia, Memorial Hospital has always been operated by the Hospital Authority of the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County.

Prior to the opening of Memorial Hospital, two private hospitals served the health care needs of Decatur and surrounding counties.

In 1916, Riverside Hospital was built and operated by Drs. J.D. Chason, Gordon Chason, R.F. Wheat and Willie Lee Wilkinson. Shortly after the Riverside Hospital was built, Dr. A.E.B. Alford came to Bainbridge and built the Bainbridge Hospital.

The Flint River provided easy access to these hospitals for people in rural areas and nearby towns, making Bainbridge a health care center for the tri-state area.

Memorial Hospital was given its name in memoriam to those pioneers who made Bainbridge the medical center of Southwest Georgia, North Florida and southeastern Alabama for many decades.

On Monday, April 4, 1960, Memorial Hospital admitted its first patient, Lee A. Parker, who was transferred from Riverside Hospital.

On the same day, Bennie “Jane” Ware gave birth to the hospital’s first baby, Cathy Ware.

The second baby Jane Brock “Tye” was born on April 5, 1960, to Ernest and Edna Brock of Climax.

The third baby was the first boy born in the new hospital. Charles Allen Wells, son of Mr. and Mrs. F.E. Wells. He was born on April 6.

The first set of twins were born on May 12, 1960, Michael George and Mark James LaPointe. Their parents were Mr. and Mrs. R.N. LaPointe. Mr. LaPointe was an instructor at Southern Airways School.

Since that time, there have been more than 20,000 babies born at Memorial Hospital.

The first year of operation resulted in 2,201 patients admitted and 338 babies delivered at Memorial Hospital. The average daily census in 1960 was 32.6 patients and the highest census was 53 patients. Since 1960, the physicians and employees at Memorial Hospital have treated more than 450,000 people in the emergency department, provided care to more than 147,000 inpatients, and birthed more than 20,000 babies.

Members of the Hospital Authority who dedicated themselves to the planning and building of Memorial Hospital were Chairman C.M. Trulock, J.W. Hunt, J.M. Woodbury, David Bryan, Raleigh Rollins, Graham Bolton, Kenneth Hodges, W.T. Laslie, Jimmie Wells and T. E. Smith. Frank L. Gibson, M.D., served as medical consultant for the new hospital.

The original medical staff of Memorial Hospital and Manor included Dr. R. F. Dickinson, Chief of Staff; Drs. Charles Bellville, Henry Bridges, Mortimer Ehrlich, Frank Gibson, Edwin Griffin, L.W. Willis Sr., L.W. Willis Jr., and Ashby Woods. Other physicians were Dr. J.J. Collins of Thomasville, the radiologist, and Dr. Margaret W. Johnson of Moultrie, the pathologist.

In the early days of Memorial Hospital, the emergency room was staffed by local physicians as needed. When emergencies occurred, physicians were called at their offices or homes to attend patients in the emergency room. It wasn’t until years later that Memorial Hospital had a 24-hour physician-staffed emergency room.

The hospital employed approximately 60 people when it first opened, including Administrator Vesper Paul Turnage, Alburose “Abbie” Dollar, administrative secretary; Eloise Monk, medical records department; Irene Toole, supervisor of nurses; Vivian Cameron, R.T., radiology; Harold Marshall, A.M.T., laboratory; Arylene Syer, R.N., anesthetist; Ruth Drawdy, A.D.A. dietician; Jean Anderson, housekeeper; Robert D. Taylor, engineer, and Lillie Priest, accountant.

As Memorial Hospital expanded its facilities and services through the years, the number of employees increased, as well.

In 2010, there are approximately 540 employees, 22 active staff physicians, 20 consulting staff physicians and 75 volunteers.

A new obstetrics and gynecology specialist, Jason Moye, M.D., will begin practicing at Memorial Hospital and Manor in August.

Although the Hospital Authority decided last month to cancel the hospital’s birthday party, which was scheduled for April 18, the annual employee picnic and awards program will still be held during National Hospital Week on May 14.