Hospital history story
As appeared in the July 23, 2008 edition of The Chatham News
As Chatham Hospital prepares to open in its new location, Chatham residents recall fond memories of the hospital, which has been in business since the 1930's. WNCA owner Barry Hayes serves on the Chatham Hospital board. In an interview Friday, he talked about the hospital's history. Hayes said when the hospital first opened in the 1930's, it was housed in a two-story brick house. "The part of the building that runs east to west was built in 1949 and opened in 1950," he said. "The part that runs perpendicular to Ivey Street was built in 1968." He added that the emergency room was constructed in 1997.
"That is about the same time UNC began managing the hospital and staffing the emergency room," he said. "This is also when the helipad was constructed." Hayes added the Siler City Rotary Club helped fund the helipad. "The Rotary Club has given approximately $2 million to Chatham Hospital since 1949," he said.
Chatham Hospital will begin a new chapter in its history July 28 at 7 a.m., when the replacement facility in Central Carolina Business Park will open for the first time. To celebrate the hospital's history, staff will hold a retirement party for the old building July 18. As the hospital prepares to close the doors to its current facility and open the new one, citizens fondly recall their memories of the hospital.
Siler City Commissioner Sam Adams was born at Chatham Hospital, when the facility was housed in the two-story house. Adams was delivered by Dr. Clyde Thomas. "There were so many babies born when I was that the hospital ran out of bassinets," he said, laughing. "The hospital staff had to put me in a dresser drawer." A few years later, the 1950's hospital was constructed. As a boy and as a teenager, Adams visited the emergency room for a number of injuries. "Before the new emergency room was built, I remember having to walk up a lot of stairs to get to the old emergency room," he said.
Alan D. Resch vividly recalls Chatham Hospital's first home, in the two-story house. "The hospital was in a big, two story brick house with a large porch," he said. "Surgeries were done on the first floor. "If patients were to be transported upstairs, the hospital staff had to call the funeral home, and the funeral home workers would put the patients on stretchers and carry them upstairs."
Resch added the resident surgeon W.L. Patman had an office in the hospital's basement. "My mother was treated there for phlebitis and my sister might have been born there," he said. He recalled living near the hospital, before the 1950's building was constructed. "At that time, there was a pig pen behind the hospital," he said. "The pigs belonged to Chatham Hospital and were slaughtered and prepared for food. "The hospital employed a man to tend to the pigs." Resch added after the 1950's hospital was built, the house was converted into apartments.
Other Chatham residents recalled memories of the hospital after the present building was constructed. Gina Jessup of Bennett first visited the Chatham Hospital emergency room while in pre-term labor with her daughter. "We were panicking and worried but they were very helpful and very good to us," she said. Siler City mayor pro tem John Grimes said Chatham Hospital staff saved his son's life when he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. "We took him to Chatham, where he was correctly diagnosed," Grimes said. "Because he was diagnosed correctly, doctors knew to give him antibiotics through an IV and valium to keep him from convulsing." Grimes said when his son was later transported to Duke Hospital, doctors said the prompt medical attention his son received at Chatham was instrumental in saving his life.
He said he is excited to see the replacement facility opening soon. "The new Chatham Hospital facility is really something Siler City and Chatham County can be proud of," he said. "This is a great thing for us."
ABOUT UNC HEALTH CARE
The UNC Health Care System is a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care. UNC Health Care is comprised of UNC Hospitals, which is ranked among the top 50 in the nation in six specialties by U.S. News & World Report and ranked one of the country's 41 best on the Leapfrog 2007 Top Hospitals list; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; community practices; home health and hospice services in seven central North Carolina counties; and Rex Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County.