Special birthday

Published 7:48 pm Friday, April 2, 2010

As Chamber of Commerce Chairman Matt Palmer expressed on Thursday about Memorial Hospital’s 50th anniversary, he experienced his father’s last breath at the hospital, his two children’s first breaths and has witnessed all that’s in between.

Memorial Hospital turns 50 on Sunday.

And in between this Sunday and April 4, 1960, there has probably not been a person in Decatur County who has not been touched by the hospital—whether in birth, death or sickness.

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As Jan Godwin, director of public relations wrote in the history of the 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.

Also, during that time, the hospital has had its share of controversies and malcontents, as any facility of its size and impact may. But in the larger scheme of things, Memorial Hospital and Manor deserves a hardy “congratulations,” and more importantly, our support.

The hospital is operated jointly by the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County, and it’s the second largest employer in the county with 540 employees.

Not only has the hospital ensured our health and safety, it’s been a great civic organization in boosting our health through its community programs, such as its health fairs and the Team Lean competitions. It also serves as an educator through its programs tied to the high school and Bainbridge College.

As the hospital enters its next 50 years, the biggest challenge may be just to keep its doors open.

Board Chairman Joe Livingston said he receives a lot of questions from the public, such as “How can the hospital stay in business and lose $200,000 year?”

“We can’t,” Livingston said during Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Each year, the hospital debits $3.5 million because it treats indigent care patients.

Each year, the hospital must write off approximately $3.5 million in bad debt. That’s a total of approximately $7 million in debits.

That’s a lot of money lost, but yet the hospital must keep its doors open—open for those who will be touched by seeing their parent’s last breath, their child’s first breath and everything in between.