MORROW COUNTY- Morrow County Hospital (MCH) meeting rooms were filled with friends and family reminiscing about their hospital experience throughout the afternoon October 28.

Retired physician Dr. John Sweeney and his wife, Ann, stopped in to recall his days at the hospital as a physician and surgeon and visit with former patients.

During the luncheon Dan Sipe of the Historical Society gave an account of the beginnings and history of the hospital. It began with a group of people meeting at Trinity Methodist Church in Mount Gilead early in 1947.

“The question was, ‘how the health of Morrow County residents can be improved,’” said Sipe.

The group followed up in meetings with physicians, the board of health and community. The answer was unanimous; the best way to improve the health of the community was to build a hospital.

Sipe painted a grim and shocking picture of health in the county in the 1940’s. The cases of polio and tuberculosis were high as well as many farm and traffic accidents in Morrow County.

In the years immediately after World War II polio was one of people’s worst fears.

“Morrow County had the highest per capita percentage of polio cases statewide in 1940,” said Sipe.

Then in 1948 the county recorded its highest number of polio cases in its history with 15 children and one adult being stricken with polio.

Polio afflicted more than 35 Morrow County children during the 1940’s. Many were sent to Columbus Children’s Hospital where they were placed in an iron lung.

In 1946 nearly 1,900 Morrow County People were admitted to hospitals in neighboring counties. Those hospitals charged higher rates to out-of-town patients.

In November 1948 Morrow County residents approved a bond issue of $550,000 for construction of the hospital. Construction of the 42 bed Morrow County Memorial Hospital began in the spring of 1950.

35 county businesses, organizations and families made donations to furnish the hospital’s patient rooms.

The second week of February in 1952 over 7,000 people toured the hospital during its three-day open house. HPM, the county’s largest industry in 1952, presented a $35,000 donation to the hospital. The 2022 equivalent would be over $391,000.

February 12, 1952 the hospital opened for business. Six babies were born the first week of operation. In the first year 1,100 patients were admitted, 334 surgeries were performed, 175 were treated in the ER and 236 babies were delivered.

MCH operated at an $18,000 loss the first year. Voters approved an operating levy for the first time in 1953.

An addition to the hospital was built in 1971, doubling the number of patient beds. A major expansion in1991 resulted in a new Emergency Department and Medical Specialty Center.

Following Sipe’s history of the hospital, visitors could look at memorabilia from past physicians and medical instruments like the “birth delivery kit.”

A high point of the day was the Birthday Party for Babies born at MCH. Several shared stories about their experience in the hospital.

Shirley Rhinebolt told about the 15 babies in her family born at MCH.

Morrow County Commissioner Tim Abraham and his cousin Randy were born in the hospital a day a part.

MCH Community Relations Director Tammy Schott said they went through past birth records to find 14,948 babies were born at MCH from 1952 until the birthing unit closed in 2,000.

Kathy Brocklesby Rogers was the first baby born in the hospital just 51 minutes after it opened.

Dr. Sweeney said laparoscopic surgery was one of the biggest changes he saw in medicine and surgery from the time he began practicing medicine in 1965 until he retired in 2001. The proliferation of paperwork due to insurance claims and Medicare was also a big change he saw.

Tours of the hospital were given following the Birthday Party with visits to the east wing’s Cardiology and Orthopedic departments.

On the tour Jessica Schwartz BSN, RN explained the importance of the Swing Bed Program in preparing patients to return home in coordination with the hospital’s rehabilitation services.

Schwartz said you definitely got the feeling of family in the hospital all during the celebration.

“We are family here at the hospital. When someone comes in they get special care. And they often know someone who works here,” Schwartz said.

The feeling of community was strong throughout the hospital as many family and friends met and visited while they enjoyed the luncheon prepared for guests and a cupcake at the end of the afternoon.

During the “Birthday Party” many who were born at MCH enjoyed sharing stories and visiting. the “Birthday Party” many who were born at MCH enjoyed sharing stories and visiting.

Ann and Dr. John Sweeney. Dr. Sweeney practiced as a physician and surgeon at MCH from 1966-2001 and delivered many babies in the 60’s and 70’s. and Dr. John Sweeney. Dr. Sweeney practiced as a physician and surgeon at MCH from 1966-2001 and delivered many babies in the 60’s and 70’s.

By Alberta Stojkovic

For the Sentinel