The History of Stillwater Medical Center
The original Stillwater Municipal Hospital, a two story, 40 bed facility located on West 9th street, admitted its first patient on Monday, October 30, 1939. Built by J.J. Bollinger Construction Company for $62,710, the hospital was partially paid for by a grant from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works and the rest from the sale of bonds, to be owned exclusively by the City of Stillwater. The city officials voted to lease the facility to the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, a Catholic organization in Enid. That contract began on September 1, 1939. By 1947, the financial situation of the hospital was not good and overcrowding had become a major issue. On December 31, 1948, a bond issue which included $200,000 for hospital expansion was approved by the citizens of Stillwater. The ordinance passed also authorized providing the levy of an annual tax for repayment.
The newly constructed wing added an additional 25 beds for new mothers and provided a nursery. The census was 20-25 daily and new moms stayed 10 days to 2 weeks in the hospital. However, within a year, there was more need for expansion due to a disturbing number of polio cases especially among children. So, the city again took bids to expand. In November of 1951, the 3rd story of the building was opened and classified as a Pediatric Ward. The total number of beds was now 80.
Despite the changes, the Sisterhood was still suffering from financial crisis along with the struggle to keep competent staff to continue the sufficient operation of the facility. On May 1, 1952, the Sisters terminated their contract with the City of Stillwater. On April 22, 1952, the citizens of Stillwater approved leasing the hospital for 25 years to the Baptist General Convention. During the 1960 decade, there was concerns of overcrowding and disrepair of the current building. This led to a movement toward building a new facility.
In 1956, the Baptists requested the City to appoint an advisory board. It was approved by the City Commission to appoint a 9-man board which would be under the direction of the Board of Director of BGC. At the request of both the City Commission and the BGC, an architect examination of the building was done. It was estimated that over $1 million was needed in repairs while building a new facility would be $2.1 to $2.4 million. This was a factor in the BGC terminating their lease effective March 15, 1970, and turning over all the remaining assets to the City.
Pressure to build a new hospital increased. Citizens, doctors and businessmen met on multiple discussions to determine the advantages and disadvantages of building on the current location. At the same time, the City was looking for potential lessees for the current facility. National Medical Centers, Inc. would get the next opportunity to manage the hospital operations. They operated the facility under the name Stillwater General Hospital. The lease agreement was for three years with NMC agreeing to pay the City $25,000 per year and all net income annually over 4 percent.
The continued unrest of the citizens of Stillwater led to the City Commission appointing a Hospital Study Committee to look at the hospital and to formulate a plan. They were tasked to complete the plan and present to the City Commission in four months. The committee recommended setting up a Municipal Hospital Trust.
With a strong indication that NMC was in financial trouble, it was announced that a California-based firm had taken over the operations of the hospital. With access to assets, it was the intention of the new company, General Health Services, to build a new facility with their own money. The for-profit company’s business plan entailed making money by properly managing the facility and not raising prices. They would not ask for any extra city taxes for the new facility.
Citizens voice strong objections to the for-profit system. They called for complete, local control. Study committee members urged the Commissioners to move on with it, don’t take any shortcuts and provide the best health care possible for Stillwater.
In 1971, the City commissioners studied a proposed trust indenture for the hospital, and on December 6, the Stillwater Municipal Trust Authority was approved and the contract with GHS was terminated effective December 31, 1971. The Board, appointed by the City Commission, soon set out to build a “hospital for the future.”
The planning went heavily underway in 1972 with the hiring of a consultant to develop a master plan and the selection of an architectural firm. The issue of location now became the top priority. The City Commission appointed a Community Response Panel which ultimately endorsed building a new hospital on a 9-acre tract, owned by Oklahoma State University, on West 6th Avenue. Bonds and a 1 cent sales tax were approved at the end of 1972 which allowed for the funding of the hospital and other municipal services. The $12.25 Million general obligation bond was the largest ever at the time.
In 1973, groundbreaking and construction began on the 107-bed facility. The estimated cost of $6.3 million for the new facility was reported to the Board in March of 1974. It was also announced that the new facility has resulted in the recruitment of nine young doctors to the area to practice medicine. The Board was also working to add a doctors building and shelling in the 5th floor which was added in the plans for future addition of services.
In early January 1976, the new hospital opened in its current location. Many additions and remodeling projects have changed the landscape over the years, but the vision remains the same: to give the citizens the best possible medical care available.