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HMH looks back 60 years to its beginning

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Staff reflect on changes, growth

By Marty Finley

Hardin Memorial Hospital is celebrating 60 years of existence this year, recognizing its growth and successes and looking back on the memories and steps that brought the facility to its current status as a regional hub for healthcare.

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As the years have passed, technology has advanced mightily, the main campus on North Dixie Avenue has expanded and the hospital’s footprint has grown from one to 10 counties.

Staff and executives at HMH this week took some time for reflection, relaying some of their fondest memories.

Diane Logsdon, an administrative executive at the hospital, pores over the past, flipping through worn documents and weathered yellow paper with notes and sig-

 natures from those who came before. She is compiling a history of the hospital’s first 60 years.

“You’ve got to preserve this,” she said.

Logsdon was hired in 1967 and worked in nursing for years before she transitioned to planning. She said the partnership established early on with Elizabethtown Community College — now Elizabethtown Community and Technical College — reaped dividends for HMH.

“It has been a lifeline for us through the years,” she said.

She is most amazed by the hospital’s growth during the past six decades.

When the push for a hospital began, there were only five  or six physicians in the area, Logsdon said. When the hospital opened in 1954, it had 24 physicians and four dentists on staff.

By its 30th anniversary, she said, HMH had around 81 medical staff compared to roughly 270 today. The hospital also employed around 20 registered nurses compared to the more than 500 on staff today, she added.

When the doors opened, Logsdon added, there were 55 to 60 employees. Today, HMH is one of the largest employers in Hardin County with more than 2,000 employees.

Logsdon named other indicators of growth. During the hospital’s earliest days, it averaged 43 surgeries performed a month, compared to nearly 1,000 procedures a month performed today. At that time, the emergency room was not nearly as busy, recording about 88 visits a month compared to more than 4,700 monthly visits today. Laboratory tests saw the largest jump, from more than 1,000 then to about 78,000 per month today, she said.

Ray McCoy, supervisor of plant engineering, was hired in 1986 as a painter. He said the hospital still used coal-fired boilers that required shoveling coal.

An early memory of the hospital came when he was a child attending school in Vine Grove. McCoy heard the community was collecting money to put brick on the hospital at a cost of approximately 10 cents a brick. It made residents around the county feel like the hospital was theirs, he said.

“I’m sure you’ll find a lot of people in Hardin County who remember that,” he said.

There wasn’t an ample supply of tools and workers in his department had to share a toolbox, he said with a laugh.

McCoy has witnessed many of the renovations and expansions, including installation of the first server room, which he said was tiny.

“It wasn’t as big as this office,” he said. 

The server room today, he said, dwarfs the first one. 

The equipment was manually operated, too, whereas today it is controlled by computers, he said.

McCoy is eagerly awaiting completion of the North Tower expansion at HMH, which will yield 56 new private rooms.

He said it is difficult to have patients share a room because it is nearly impossible to keep both satisfied on issues such as noise and temperature control.

One situation he recalled was when one patient was roomed with another who liked the room temperature around 55 degrees. The other patient was buried under a pile of blankets to keep warm, he said.

“The new rooms are key,” he said.

Other staff reflected on HMH’s past this week.

Gwen Wilkins, microbiology supervisor, was hired in 1970 and noted changes to the lab department since her start.

“We had no supervisors and no real defined departments, just small areas in the lab,” Wilkins wrote in a note. “Blood Bank was a small counter and a refrigerator. There wasn’t much, if any, automation. There was no phlebotomy department, we had to go out and draw (blood from) 15-30 people, then come back and do all the testing. There were only paper orders and paper test results and we had to hand-carry it back to the floor or ED. We also had to do all the EKGs and mount them to be read.”

She hopes the next 60 years are just as fruitful.

“I have always loved my job here at Hardin Memorial because I feel it is important, and I think the changes and growth has been great for Hardin County residents so that they get the best medical treatment available,” Wilkins wrote.

Registered nurse Jerry Taylor was hired in 1974 and after a brief retirement, returned to the hospital in 2013. He noted his early days with the organization, when smoking was allowed and ash trays were available at nurse’s stations and inside patient rooms. The cafeteria was small, he said, and closed every day after the evening meal.

“In 1974, HMH was the 1954 building only and was three floors. All offices were on the first floor and there was an indoor garden with a fountain in the main lobby. The time clock for all employees was in the hallway behind the cafeteria,” Taylor said. “A small ER was on the first floor, with a sign posted at registration that read: ER $7.50/ER Doctor $7.50. All registration was done by typewriters, some were electric. The ER was not staffed with medical doctors 24/7. The staff doctors took call in the daytime and an ER doctor came in the evening.”

He described a close-knit community of employees.

“The (medical staff) was small, but the hospital was small,” Taylor said. “When we had meetings that were for all employees, they were at different times in the cafeteria. We didn’t have any other space large enough. Everyone knew each other, your family and your children.”

In recent years, HMH has re-branded itself as a health care system with 45 locations, focusing on acquiring medical practices to expand its service network.

Murphy said those changes were triggered in part by the Base Realignment and Closure at Fort Knox, which attracted soldiers and civilians from areas including St. Louis and Indianapolis.

“They were used to health care systems,” she said.

But Logsdon said expansion always has been based on research and meeting the needs of patients. HMH never added a service or expanded simply because someone else did it or they wanted to be competitive, she said.

“I just think that’s something we should be very proud of,” she said.

Marty Finley can be reached at 270-505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.