Memorial Hospital Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Click here to view Memorial Hospital’s special 50th Anniversary publication.

Memorial Hospital and Manor celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2010. 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. The Hill-Burton Act initiated the concept of local, state, and federal cost sharing of healthcare facilities, and provided federal funds for construction and renovation of more than 9,000 medical facilities, particularly in lower income areas. 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 healthcare needs of Decatur and surrounding counties. In 1916, Riverside Hospital was built and operated by Dr. J. D. Chason, Dr. Gordon Chason, Dr. R. F. Wheat, and Dr. 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 healthcare 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, Northern Florida, and Southeastern Alabama for many decades.

On Monday, April 4, 1960, Memorial Hospital admitted its first patient, Mr. Lee A. Parker, who was transferred from Riverside Hospital. On the same day, Mrs. 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 over 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 over 450,000 people in the emergency department, provided care to over 147,000 inpatients, and birthed over 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, Vice Chairman, J.M. Woodbury, Secretary, David Bryan, Treasurer, 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, Dr. Charles Bellville, Dr. Henry Bridges, Dr. Mortimer Ehrlich, Dr. Frank Gibson, Dr. Edwin Griffin, Dr. L. W. Willis, Sr., Dr. L. W. Willis, Jr., and Dr. 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, Mrs. Alburose “Abbie” Dollar, Administrative Secretary, Mrs. Eloise Monk, Medical Records Department, Mrs. Irene Toole, Supervisor of Nurses, Mrs. Vivian Cameron, R.T., Radiology; Harold Marshall, A.M.T., Laboratory, Mrs. Arylene Syer, R.N., Anesthetist, Mrs. Ruth Drawdy, A.D.A. Dietician, Mrs. Jean Anderson, Housekeeper, Robert D. Taylor, Engineer, and Mrs. Lillie Priest, Accountant.  As Memorial Hospital expanded its facilities and services through the years, the number of employees increased, as well. At the time of it’s 50th Anniversary, there were approximately 540 employees, 22 active staff physicians, 20 consulting staff physicians, and 75 volunteers.

Through the years, Memorial Hospital and Manor, an 80-bed acute care hospital, has expanded its facilities and services to meet the needs of a growing community.  In 1972, Memorial Manor, a 67-bed Long Term Care Facility, was built adjacent to the Hospital, and in 1979, Manor II was completed, adding another 40 beds to the nursing home. An Intensive Care Unit was added in 1986, a new Level II Emergency Department was built in 1993, and three new building projects were completed in 1998, including the Kirbo Women’s Center, Willow Ridge Personal Care Facility, and Memorial Medical Center. Renovation of patient rooms in the hospital and resident rooms in the Manor are an ongoing project at Memorial Hospital and Manor. Plans are being made for the construction of a new Same Day Surgery center at the hospital, which will include expanded facilities for the Laboratory, Radiology and other departments.

Under the leadership of the Hospital Authority of the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County, our facility continues to grow to meet the needs of Bainbridge, Decatur County and the surrounding communities.

Memorial Hospital, 1960