Thompson: Mark Reed Hospital had its beginnings in 1940s

A look back at the history of East County’s hospital.

As promised, here is the history of Mark Reed Hospital. As I sit to write this I am overwhelmed with information. How can I put 60 years of information into an 800-word article?

The first hospital in McCleary was opened by Dr. Berton E. Fleming of McCleary. He opened the up-to-date hospital in 1913. He was called away to WWI five years later. After his tour of duty, he returned to McCleary and continued the hospital until 1926. The September 2018 McCleary Museum newsletter tells his story more completely.

The idea of another hospital in the area began development in the mid-40s. Articles of Incorporation were filed Dec. 29, 1950. It took another 6 years to get the hospital actually built and staffed for opening day. Land was donated, money was raised. Mill workers donated through payroll deduction. Both McCleary and Elma worked hard to get the hospital built. As late as 1955 there was concern that enough funds might not be raised to support staffing the brand-new building. Funding was finally secured and staffing hired. The initial financial support continued to come from mill employee donations. It would be quite a while before the hospital could support itself.

Open house brought in over 400 people who were impressed and pleased with the stainless-steel equipment and automatic emergency generator, Earl Weygandt, chairman of the hospital board reported.

Ruby Hyman was one of the first employees arriving 6 months after opening and shared her memories of the early days with us. Bobby Sue Schankel, RN, and Alice Herman, housekeeping, unpacked the supplies on the first day under the supervision of Dorothy and Bill Smith. Dorothy was an RN and Bill was a lab tech.

Pearl Hamby was recruited from Shelton to become administrator, head nurse, scrub nurse, floor nurse and anything else her well-trained aides couldn’t do. No LPNs then. Hyman started work as an aide. The aides were efficient with doing blood pressures, dressing changes, cauterizations and taking care of patients in post op. The hospital was well-known for excellent patient care so most of the beds were full and at times screened beds were placed in the hallway. There were four OB beds, a surgery, X-ray, lab, and full kitchen service.

“We had wonderful cooks and we ate family style. When I came to the hospital, I weighed 110 pounds, but not for long,” Hyman said.

In the early years, there was nothing disposable. Gloves were washed, rinsed and checked for holes, powdered, packaged and autoclaved (sterilized). All needles and syringes were washed thoroughly, rinsed, sharpened and autoclaved. While washing these items, gloves were not worn as they were too expensive. Ruby had the job of washing the glassware in the lab. No gloves were worn there, either.

The first baby born at Mark E. Reed Memorial Hospital was Marcia Reeda Lynch, born on Sept. 22, 1956, the day after the hospital first opened.

There was even a gift shop in those early days. It was run by the Ladies’ Auxillary. Bake sales were held to help with purchases in the beginning. One newspaper story boasts a new inhalation therapy unit, purchased by the Ladies’ Auxillary. Another purchase was an electric bed, basic equipment now.

In November 1954, financial problems plagued the fledgling organization. All that was needed was $30,000, not a large sum by today’s standards. At one point, Hyman remembered, the employees kicked in $100 a month for several months. There was one month when employees were not paid at all. Getting their financial bearings was a struggle.

A helipad was added by the Lion’s Club in 1973 at the east end of the building. The area was hand cleared by men with chain saws and axes.

Remember Dr. Micken, Dr. McCool and Dr. Stewart? After their passing the hospital was fortunate to have Dr. Ed Macke move into town. He was scheduled to be here a short period of time and ended up retiring from his McCleary practice. Drs. Michael and Theresa Trygstad joined in patient care when they moved into Elma. I’m sure there are many names I should mention.

A new wing was added in April 1985 and would house the business offices and lab, freeing up the old business office for a larger emergency room.

This August, Telecare is opening a new Behavioral Health facility in the old Mark Reed Hospital building. The new (old) name is Mark Reed Evaluation and Rehabilitation and will be providing inpatient behavioral health services to the community. Telecare employs over 3,600 employees and has been in business since 1965. They have been on the “Best Places to Work” list 17 times, according to the SF Business Journal. Their mission is to help people in their recovery and help them live their hopes and dreams. They are looking to employ local people and have openings for LPNs, RNs (full and part-time and on-call).

This has just skimmed the surface. The full history has been carefully preserved in scrapbooks over the years. Joy Iversen is the most recent historian. I know I haven’t done this justice — but it would take a volume of books to even hit most of the highlights.

Mark Reed Hospital was the best place to work. We are wishing the new occupants well in their effort to continue health care in that newly refurbished facility.

Vidette columnist Linda Thompson can be reached at