Building a Healthier Community One Brick at a Time
Sometime during the latter part of the 1945, a meeting was called for the purpose of taking advantage of the disposal of Hospital Field Units by the War Assets Board. It was decided to convert the Perry County Infirmary into a hospital and use the field unit's equipment in the proposed hospital.
There was much discussion as to the feasibility of this move. Objections to the plan were that the location was too far from the center of the population and that the Federal Health Department and State Board of Health would not likely approve the conversion because the old building could not be made fire-proof. Finally, the group organized a large volunteer committee to explore other options for establishing a hospital in Perry County. Sam Anderson, Citizen National Bank President, was elected chairman. The general opinion of the group was that a site between Tell City and Cannelton would be the ideal location for a county hospital. Roy Fenn was approached and he very willingly agreed to donate the building site for the proposed hospital. Some expressed fears that the ground was not level enough, but proved to be quite adequate once it had been graded. Things began to move very rapidly and at a subsequent meeting at the Tell City Public Library, it was decided to go on with the project. Sam Anderson resigned as chairman, stating that it would be impossible for him to give the time that would be necessary to make this huge project a success.
Chris Zoercher was named to succeed Anderson as chairman. Next, the group selected a sub-committee with legal powers as was provided by Indiana law. It was required that the committee be comprised of four members; two from each of the two political parties. The matter was then presented to the Perry County Commissioners for adoption. The commissioners were Noble Sprinkle, Ed Devillez and Harmon Bruggenschmidt. After gaining the commissioners approval, the committee named Charles Schreiber, Father Rouck, Chris Zoercher and J. Albert Gerber as the first hospital board.
The hospital was to be financed, roughly, by 1/3 Federal Government monies, 1/3 county bonding and 1/3 donations. The commissioners were then presented with a petition of about 5000 signatures asking that steps be taken for the construction of a hospital. A comprehensive financial plan was also presented to the commissioners and overwhelmingly approved. It consisted of a $170,000 bond issue and $10,000 from a new assessment. After due time, $167,000 was raised by donations and three picnics. It is interesting to note that less than 3% of the amount pledged failed to materialize.
Just two years later, in November, 1947 a contract was signed with Hawkins and Walker, an architectural firm to launch work on a 50-bed hospital. Two bids were received; one for $1,250,000 and another for $1,280,000. No such amount was available and the hospital board was forced to instruct the architects to reduce the size by one half. The new bids came in at $472,950.00 and construction began April 29, 1949. The final contractors were as follows: J.D. Jennings Corporation, Freyn Brothers, Gibson Electric Company and Martinsville Construction Company. The latter contractor had their contract cancelled due to failures to comply with the agreement and their work was finished by the bonding company.
It should be noted that the money obtained from the Federal Government came from the Hill-Burton-Hatch Law. Our hospital was the first hospital built in Indiana that utilized this law and the monies made available by it.
Five years after that first meeting in 1945, the building was finally finished and staffed. Perry County Memorial Hospital proudly opened its doors in October, 1950. The hospital's challenges were not over; at first, times were "lean" as people hadn't learned to utilize their hospital. As time went on, the situation improved thanks to a lot of hard work and the determination of some forward-thinking individuals. Not only was the community learning to use the hospital; they were learning how to help the hospital. A Perry County Memorial Hospital Foundation was formed and as contributions came in, there was more money to buy needed equipment.
The gray ladies were also formed about this time and have grown steadily through the years both in size, fund-raising ability and productivity. Today this group proudly calls itself the Perry County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
By 1956, the hospital's services were being utilized to the point that there was need for an expansion. Again, it was necessary to go to the community and rally financial support. Another bonding issue was done in the amount of $130,000. The community responded generously and many individuals pledged furnishing and equipment. The addition was fondly referred to as the "riverside wing" and presently houses Resource Utilization, Mammography and Nuclear Medicine and the C.T. Scanner. After several more years of successful operations, the hospital board decided to complete the basement and second floor. This money was generated by hospital earnings and no further bonding was necessary. The project was dedicated in 1963.
Talk of another expansion started in the early seventies. This too, was a major step as plans were to double the size of the existing structure. The addition would be built in front of the present hospital and the two structures would be connected with a long corridor. It was aesthetically pleasing to the eye and caught the attention of healthcare providers throughout the state. The project was dedicated September 6, 1975.
In the early eighties the Federal Government was working on redesigning the reimbursement systems for hospitals. Many farsighted healthcare providers tracked their progress with great concern as the proposed changes could have far reaching effects in the healthcare arena. Just as many of us feared, hospitals were put on a prospective payment system in 1983 and reimbursement was cut drastically. Many hospitals had to close their doors. We certainly fell upon hard times, but managed to survive through the wise management of our Board of Trustees and Administration. We looked for new sources of revenue such as outpatient services, home health, companion care, outpatient specialists and much more.
It became apparent that we did not have enough room for all of the new services that were being taken on and there was talk of yet another expansion. By this time, the hospital had begun to recover from the reimbursement issue and was financially sound. The board, who consisted of Tom Carr, Mary K. Smith, Hugh Thrasher, Shirley Kurtzhals and J.B. Land, and Brad Dykes, Administrator/CEO decided to embark on a $3.5 million building project. This new addition would house outpatient specialist clinic treatment rooms, new emergency department, admitting area and waiting rooms. The lower level houses a spacious physical therapy department, class room, oncology area, new mechanical room and space for future growth. The addition, which was completed and dedicated on March 27, 1995, gives us our present structure. We suspect that we have only begun to see changes in the restructuring of healthcare and reimbursement for services as the evolution continues. As we move into the future, we will aggressively pursue our goals of providing quality healthcare.