history of St. Mary's Hospital
The first part of the following is a summary of St. Mary’s Hospital taken from stories written by Sr. Marcedes Martzen and edited by Imelda Wimer of the 65th anniversary of the hospital. At the end is a synopsis of the past ten years written by Jeanette Gorman. St. Mary’s Hospital is sponsoring a Community Celebration for their 75th Anniversary. The public is invited to a dance featuring Centerline (formerly the Selway Cruisers) on Saturday, November 5, 8:00 p.m. at Greencreek Community Hall. The public is invited.
Robert Darland, son of Mr. and Mrs. Gus Darland of Ferdinand was the first baby born Dec. 2, 1930, in the first hospital.
The former John Meyer home had come to the sisters through a bankruptcy connected with the Cottonwood Mining and Elevator Company. This was in 1927.
It was not until 1930 work began to renovate the building resulting in a 4-bed patient ward, 4 bassinets, nurses station, x-ray room, sterilization room, waiting room, chapel, and room for the chaplain. An addition to the building contained a 10-bed capacity ward and an elevator shaft.
Sr. Rose Schraecher dusted and redusted the first floor near the entrance and the small office. She prepared admission records and an account book and checked progress through the building. She would be superior, bookkeeper and admissions clerk for the new hospital.
Sr. Veronica Ottinger cared for the diets.
With the hospital overcrowded most of the time the Sisters decided early in 1939 to add an annex to the hospital. Dr. Wesley Orr came to Cottonwood in 1912 and he was very proud of the new addition to the hospital. The addition doubled the space and added a modern surgery unit, as well as an electric elevator to serve the 3-story fireproof building. The main structure was also renovated.
The first penicillin came to the prairie from Chicago through the work of Dr. Orr to treat a streptococcus infection in 22 year old Agatha Goeckner. Agatha had been sick for 12 days when the first penicillin was given. By morning she was better and after more doses she was much better.
World War II created a shortage of doctors causing maternity patients to seek hospital care and use the improved incubators to lessen baby deaths.
In 1954 there were 1515 patients admitted, 577 surgeries and 2534 outpatients treated.
Doctor’s serving in the 1940’s and 1950’s were Dr. W.F. Orr, K.H. Collins, W.H. Pierce, and C.D. Kobler of Nezperce, with Dr. R.E. Orr joining the staff in 1951.
In 1957 the name was changed to St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital Guild was established. The hospital was fully accreted by the Joint Commission of Accreditation.
1960 saw the first of the consulting staff special services and the first disaster drills.
It was also discovered that the hospital needed a complete renovation to meet state accreditation standards. For the past 10 years Dr. Orr had been meeting with the Sisters about building a new hospital, maybe at Grangeville or Fenn.
The Sisters did not want to leave the Cottonwood area. Despite adverse reasons the community voted positively to risk building a nearly $1,000,000 structure.
The adverse circumstance included: financially the community already had a large debt from the academy/gym, the Hospital/Nursinghome in Jerome, the collection of outstanding bills on the Prairie was poor, the patient occupancy had fallen off and there was a shortage of doctors on the hospital staff. The Sisters found the alternative of closing the local hospital even more appalling.
A drive was started for pledges to construct the new hospital under the chairmanship of August Hoene, application was made for a Hill-Burton grant which was approved for a 24-bed hospital. The Sisters added 4 extra rooms for long-term Sister care and they also paid for the chapel and the Sisters’ residence.
In 1963 the Idaho Benedictine Sisters’ bought the old public school property of $700,000.
A dedication ceremony was held March 18, 1965 for the new hospital and some of those invited included the Mayors of Cottonwood, Ferdinand, Craigmont, Kamiah, and Grangeville. The Most Rev. Sylvester W. Treinen of Boise to the hospital, and Rt. Rev. Msgr. J.M. Verhoeven of Cottonwood to give the invocation.
In 1962 when plans were made to go for a new hospital members of the advisor board were: August Hoene, Cletus Uhlorn, Tony Arnzen, Ferdinand; Charles H. Wilkins, Craigmont; Raymond Terhaar, Greencreek; Henry Haener, Grangeville; and W. Wade Wilson of Kamiah. The were chosen to conduct the fund drive.
Some 400 subscribers have their names on a plaque in the hospital lobby. Also helping with the fund raising were members of the state and national senate and representatives.
The new hospital has 25 to 32 beds with many services for patients rooms, operating rooms, x-ray, laboratory, medical records with oxygen to operating and patient rooms.
On March 21, 1965 the move from old to new hospital began. First to move was a premature baby by ambulance, Dr. John Rockwell rode with baby Becky Vogel.
August 26, 1965 six licensed practical nurses graduated at the hospital.
November 18, 1965 four rooms were set aside for long-term care. Cost was $10 a day plus medicine and extra care.
In 1966 Sr. Regina O’Connell, administrator, invited Dr. Valder, Moscow surgeon, to provide elective and emergency surgeries.
Col. Wm. Schongalla, Jr., was administrator from 1967 to 1977. He thanked the hospital guild for a gift of $4200 for needed equipment. The gift represented much hard work by guild members.
Accreditation for long term and acute care was approved for the hospital in 1970.
Cletus Uhlorn had the contract for ambulance service since 1951 turned the service over to St. Mary’s because of insurance policies.
In 1972 the Guild donated $500 toward the purchase of an ambulance. Emergency Medical Technician Service (EMT) was established at this time.
In 1982 a helipad was laid by the members of the Cottonwood Lions Club and the Life Bird helicopter began the service of transferring critical patients to Spokane.
Another first occurred in 1977 when a special consulting staff, which included lay people, came into being. The first lay members were Fred Mader, Lee Uhling and Gerald Uhlorn, gave top priority to keeping the hospital operating.
In 1978 the board went to a management type of administration which they later decided was a good move. From 1978-1989 Jerry Hart and Associates through Rural West Management Company took over with John Hull named administrator.
The clinic at Nezperce was opened in 1979 and in December the first Health Fair was held with ten stations. Over 300 people visited the fair.
In December 1980 the condominiums joined the hospital, the Sisters’ moved out of the hospital into a private home and Dr. James Laurino joined the staff.
The Kamiah clinic opened in 1983.
In 1984 the St. Mary’s Clinic opened with Dr. M. Masar, surgeon on a weekly basis, Dr. Ron Sigler, Dr. Andrew Jones, Dr. Kenneth Pfaff as staff, Dr. Pfaff retired in 1994.
Dr. Jeff Edward joined in 1994. Dr. George Imhoff, in private practice, also brought in patients to the hospital.
In 1989 the Priory of St. Gertrude changed the sponsorship of the hospital to the Benedictines of Duluth.
On Sunday, Oct. 7, 1990 a celebration was held to honor 25 years in the new hospital.
When Casey Uhling, who had been in charge for the endowment fund, became administrator in 1991, Debbie Schumacher became manager for the endowment fund.
In 1995 Mrs. Uhling reported 862 admissions, 360 outpatients (less than a day in the hospital) patients at all clinics for the year were 16,500. There were 3 clinics at this time.
The hospital staff and services continued to grow and develop to fit the needs of the community.
St. Mary's Hospital, the last 10 years
In the past two issues the Cottonwood Chronicle summarized St. Mary’s Hospital’s first 65 years of providing health care to area residents. This week marks the 75th anniversary of the hospital and a number of significant events have occurred between 1995 and 2005.
The Craigmont Clinic opened, bringing the number of satellite clinics to four including the Nezperce, Cottonwood and Kamiah clinics. SMHC also began collaboratively providing medical care at the medical clinic in Elk City. To meet the increasing demand for health care services Dr. Jack Secrest joined the staff in 1995 and Brenda Hewlett, Family Nurse Practitioner began seeing patients in 1997.
During this time SMHC began administering the Grangeville Physical Therapy Clinic to serve outpatients in need of PT services. When the outpatient Cottonwood PT Clinic was established in the refurbished Orr Building the space was arranged to include a wellness center for use by patients, former patients and employees. A third PT clinic was established in Kamiah, shortly thereafter.
St. Mary’s also initiated their Home Health program which provides in-home health care, as well as end-of-life care in an area that includes the surrounding towns of White Bird, Reubens, Stites, Greencreek, Ferdinand, Nezperce, Cottonwood, Kamiah and others in the area.
In 1998, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino became an associate member of the Benedictine Health System, Duluth, Minnesota. The two hospitals formed an equal partnership with a joint management team to form a regional healthcare system. Reimbursement structures were changing and many other rural hospitals were closing their doors or being transformed into referral centers for larger, urban hospitals with fewer services. Collaboration rather than competition reduced overhead, strengthened services and allowed both facilities to enter service contracts and obtain equipment at more favorable rates.
The contract for the $1.2 million dollar Meditech software system which is currently being phased was purchased ‘two for the price of one.’ The system will create electronic medical records which can be shared between the ten medical clinics and five physical therapy clinics administered by the two facilities. Identical CT scanners for both facilities were purchased in 2004 which allow for instantaneous readings and 24/7 availability. New X-ray equipment was also recently purchased jointly for the two facilities.
In May, 2002 after years of planning SMH held a community groundbreaking for their new 12,000 square foot, two story medical clinic which houses 12 exam rooms, two nursing stations, a procedure room and physician offices. Over 200 people attended and over 150 people attended the dedication and Open House held in February, 2003. Area Lions Clubs raised funds locally and arranged for a donation from the Lions Club International Foundation to present SMH with $27,000 to help equip the new clinic.
The medical staff expanded to include Dr. Haley Minnehan in 2002 and Megan Wilson, FNP, PNP, in 2005. However, it lost Dr. Edwards last summer after 11 years of practicing medicine in the area. Dr. Maurice Masar also retired after 20 years serving as practitioner and general surgeon. He continues to serve on the joint hospital board.
Last year the four clinics had close to 24,000 outpatient visits, over 9,000 PT visits, 1830 ER visits, 1378 hospital admissions and the SMH ambulance and EMTs made 236 ambulance runs. SMHC has over 150 employees and, with CVHC, has an annual payroll close to $6 million.
To remain in touch with the communities served by SMHC and to foster a partnership with the people in those communities, the SMH Foundation adopted the Circle of Life program in 2004. Staff and Foundation members provide hour long tours of the hospital and clinic. Eight tours are scheduled between now and next May. A special breakfast is planned for May 3 for those who have been on the tour and interested others. The Foundation is also planning a Golf Tournament next July 19.
The past ten years have brought many changes, challenges, rewards and awards. St. Mary’s Hospital received the Governor’s Brightest Star Award in 2002 and was designated as one of the nation’s Top 100 Hospitals in 1995 and 2000. That award is no longer given to hospitals under 25 beds. SMH also received a regional benchmark award in 1998.
This past Spring, the 17 member joint management team of St. Mary’s and Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics received national recognition when HealthLeaders magazine named them the Top Leadership Team for 2005 in the small hospital category.
The physicians, staff, volunteers, and board members of St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinics are inviting the public to share in their 75th Anniversary Celebration this Saturday evening, November 5 at Greencreek Community Hall, 8:00 p.m. There will be an employee appreciation dinner from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The celebration includes live music from Centerline, formerly the Selway Cruisers and a no host bar. Please join the hospital staff in toasting 75 years of service.