History of Doctors’ Memorial Hospital

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On Sunday, September 2, 1957, a crowd estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,200 endured the heat and bright sun to attend the dedication ceremonies at Doctors’ Memorial Hospital.

Declan O’Grady, County Attorney and master of ceremonies, told of the beginnings of the hospital, saying that it was a dream in the minds of a number of public-spirited citizens who were determined that this community should have a hospital.

But first estimates and first bids indicated that the cost would far exceed all the monies then available. However, there were two men who knew what to do: Paul K. Honey and Lee Wakeman, of the Buckeye Cellulose Corporation. They took the original estimates and trimmed them so that a building could be erected, furnished and kept within the limits of all available funds. Their plans were quickly adopted and the county commissioners appointed a special committee called the Taylor County Hospital Corporation, of which Mr. Honey was president.

Mr. Honey told of the struggles of the corporation. He compared himself to a freight train engineer saying a vast amount of freight had been loaded and unloaded during the planning and construction of the hospital. He noted that the federal government bore half the costs by utilizing Hill-Burton Public Law No. 725 and told the hospital had been completed with a substantial amount of money left over with which to start operations. He then presented the keys to the hospital to the county commissioners and commission chairman, who turned the keys over to the hospital administrator who would now assume control of the hospital.

The community was very excited and the doctors who had been practicing out of their offices and making house calls finally had a hospital. There was Dr. John Parker, who came home to practice; Dr. John Dyal, General Surgeon with an office over O’Quinn Drug Store; Dr. C.R. Wiley, a newcomer to Perry at the time; Dr. R.J. Greene, a senior practicing physician in 1957 and Dr. Walter J. Baker, whose office was in Foley, near Buckeye. These were the heroes of medicine for Taylor County during those times. A few short years later, Dr. T. Conrad Williams, Dr. James A. Rawls and Dr. Hoyt Horne joined this hardworking group of physicians. An expansion project was completed in 1960, adding 26 beds. DMH operated this facility until 1969 when a new hospital was built to meet the need for both additional space and new code compliance standards.

The original hospital was used for ancillary services until a fire broke out in 1972, causing considerable damage. Part of the facility was saved and housed several hospital departments until the move to the new facility on Byron Butler Parkway.

After serving as hospital administrator for 20 years, Mr. Arnold retired and Gary Muller was appointed CEO, followed by Keith Gilles, and Mark Van Fleet (see CEO pictures at bottom of page). Tallahassee Memorial Hospital began to manage the hospital in 1983. Mr. Bill Anderson and Mr. Bob Bell were administrators while Tallahassee was in charge. After about eight years, Tallahassee Memorial transferred the remainder of their lease to Crest Medical Services on May 15, 1991, Crest failed in their attempt to run the hospital. Their contract was canceled on May 15, 1992, and the county took control of the hospital. During this time of adversity, two DMH physicians, Dr. Miles Nelson and Dr. Joel Shugar worked tirelessly along with hospital employees, who went two weeks without pay. Many local organizations made donations of money and food. There was an outpouring of help from the entire community.

When it was determined that the present facility was too outdated to be remodeled or expanded, a few more community-minded citizens, the DMH Board of Directors and elected officials once again determined the need for a new hospital. The community responded by passing a one-cent sales tax by an overwhelming majority (73%) to pay for the building. The DMH CEO and Board of Trustees, commissioners, city council members and architects worked to build this beautiful facility we are in today.

On April 10, 2003, DMH held a ribbon-cutting ceremony, open house and dedication, with numerous dignitaries and hundreds in attendance, at the new 96,000 square foot facility on N. Byron Butler Parkway. The move was completed in May 2003, making new history and providing new services to Taylor County.