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THE STORY OF NASH GENERAL HOSPITAL is a story that needs to be told. It is more than a story about buildings and healthcare. It is the story of a community of people seeing a vital need and working together to accomplish a common goal. It is a story about vision, leadership, courage, compromise, cooperation, determination… and ultimate success.
By 1940, four hospitals were located in Rocky Mount: Seaboard Coast Line, The Rocky Mount Sanitarium, Park View Hospital and Memorial Hospital. This system served the population well. However, by the 1960s, these hospitals were struggling. The swelling population, the explosion of medical technology and rising costs were straining the system.
On February 18, 1965, Mr. Kemp Battle, a respected attorney and lifelong resident of Rocky Mount issued the call for a new medical facility in a speech before the Rocky Mount Kiwanis Club.
Four months later, on June 18, 1965, the Nash County Board of Commissioners announced the formation of a Hospital Study Committee headed by Herman Merrell. The committee was charged with the responsibility of determining the county’s medical care needs and how they could be met.
The committee moved swiftly, and by November 1965, a consulting firm had completed a thorough study. This report included a recommendation for a 350-bed hospital.
The County Commissioners accepted the recommendation and put the proposal before the citizens of Nash County for a $5.5 million bond referendum. This amount would be supplemented by an additional $3 million in federal funds should the referendum be approved.
The vision for a new hospital had reached a crucial juncture. The future of the community’s healthcare and quality of life was in the balance. The campaign was intense — for and against.
Voters approved the bond issue by a margin of only 221 votes.
One month later in May of 1966, the Commissioners named a nine-member board of trustees. The first board members were George Watson, Chairman; Larry Bass; Roy Cooper, Jr.; Archie McLean; Frank Meadows, Jr.; Henry Milgrom; William Stanley; William Toney and W.S. Williams, Jr.
With the bond issue approved and the hospital board organized, the project needed professional guidance. After an intense five-month search, a 32-year old Kinston native working at Greenville General Hospital was chosen to oversee planning, construction and management of the new facility. Bryant Aldridge assumed his responsibilities on November 1, 1966.
The vision soon reached its second critical juncture. On November 23, 1966, the board announced that after studying more than 20 possible sites, a 102-acre site west of Rocky Mount on U.S. 64 had been chosen.
But plans for a nearby rock quarry operation prompted trustees to consider other possible sites.
Several months later, the board approved the purchase of site number 2 where Nash Community College is currently located.
Announcement of the new site sparked intense public discussion. Distance from a concentrated population center, the prohibitively high cost of extending utilities to the location, accessibility and other factors caused the board to seek yet a third site.
Agreement was soon reached on placing the new hospital at site number 3… until the landowner refused the purchase offer.
After nearly a year of public discussion, and in consideration of proximity to the medical community, cost of extending utilities to the site and ease of access from major roadways, the board voted unanimously to return to site number 1 — Nash General’s current location.
One month later, construction bids totaling more than $7 million were approved. The last major hurdle had been surmounted, and Nash County would have its hospital.
Ground was broken to begin construction on the 102-acre site on July 22, 1968. It would be three years before the first patient would be admitted. Within those three years, more than construction would need to take place to prepare for the opening. Work had begun as early as 1967 to structure the new hospital’s medical staff. After two years of work, the medical staff was formally organized and elected its first officers in June 1969: Dr. K.D. Weeks, President; Dr. John Chambliss, Vice-President; Dr. Leon Robertson, Secretary. As construction was completed and the day for Nash General’s opening drew near, a new volunteer organization, the Nash General Hospital Auxiliary, was established to provide an opportunity for continued community involvement in the new hospital and to offer vital services to patients and staff.
Dedication ceremonies were held on April 25, 1971, with an estimated 6,500 Nash County citizens touring the new hospital following the ribbon cutting. Participating in the ribbon cutting were Dr. K.D. Weeks, Kemp Battle, W.S. Williams, Jr., Mrs. Herman Merrell, Fred Harris and Dr. I. Taylor.
Three weeks after the dedication on May 16, 1971, the first patients were transferred from Park View Hospital and Memorial Hospital, as these facilities ceased operation. The old Coastline Hospital had already closed.
A new era had begun. A community of people had identified a need and worked together to accomplish their goal. Together these exceptional people had surmounted the obstacles to provide for their present and future health care needs. Medical care resources and technology, previously unavailable, were now accessible to all citizens in the county-owned, not-for-profit hospital. The vision, courage, cooperation and determination of community leaders — their teamwork — had paid off.
During the next 30 years, Nash General Hospital would grow into Nash Health Care and bring to our community the latest in medical technology, including angiography, ultrasound imaging, nuclear medicine, mammography, computer tomography (CT) scanning, neurosurgery, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), lithotripsy and cardiac catheterization. Our modern facilities and cutting edge technology would also bring the best and brightest medical professionals to our community.
In 1984, our innovative efforts gave birth to a unique concept that would allow treatments and surgeries to be performed on an outpatient basis. Signaling the wave of the future, Nash Day Hospital was opened in October 1984, with Brad Weisner appointed President of the new hospital.
The hospital built a state-of-the-art heart catheterization lab in 1990.
In 1991, the Women’s Center at Nash General Hospital ushered in new technologies and advantages for expecting parents. From Lamaze to breastfeeding, the Center offers a variety of classes to help mothers and fathers prepare for their new arrivals. While birthing rooms in the Women’s Center are designed to look like home, they are fully equipped with state-of-the-art fetal monitoring and emergency equipment. In today’s high-tech medical environment, the Women’s Center at Nash General Hospital enables parents to bring their babies into the world in a warm and caring environment.
In July 1993, Nash Health Care showcased its commitment to quality care with the opening of the new 23,500 square-foot Emergency Care Center. From the design of the building, to the selection of equipment, to the positioning of the staff, everything about the ECC focuses on responding to the needs of the patient.
In 1994, Nash Health Care acquired Coastal Plain Hospital. Coastal Plain is a 50-bed mental health facility offering comprehensive inpatient and outpatient treatment services to eastern North Carolina. Counseling services are available 24-hours a day and are designed to help children, adolescents, adults and senior citizens with emotional and behavioral problems, including drug and alcohol abuse.
In a move designed to improve the quality of health care offered to the residents of our region, Nash Health Care purchased Community Hospital of Rocky Mount and assumed operational responsibility on February 1, 1997. Continuing its expansion in facilities and programs, within the next two years Nash Health Care opened Rocky Mount Nash Pediatrics and moved into a new 20,000 square-foot ICU/Lab expansion. We launched Community Health Services with the responsibility to identify regional health needs and develop programs and resources to address those needs. This most recent expansion phase culminated in the November 1999 opening of the freestanding Bryant T. Aldridge Rehabilitation Center, named after Bryant T. Aldridge who had retired the previous year after 32 years of service.
The story is not finished. As we conclude more than three decades of quality health care to our community and begin a new era, our enduring philosophy and exceptional people — the 1,500 employees, nearly 200 physicians and 400 plus volunteers, all dedicated to quality, progressive care — will continue to improve the lives of area citizens. As Nash Health Care journeys into the next millennium, we are anxious to continue building relationships, working with people and serving our community.