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The Sandpoint Hospital - Bonner General History

by Bob Gunter

Not only were the people of Sandpoint, Idaho, to have their own modern hospital, but for the first time they were offered affordable health care. A local paper, The Republican, announced that "tickets will be sold at $12 each.

The rumors were going around town that Sandpoint, Idaho was going to get its first hospital. People knew that Doctor Nathan A. Goddard had visited the area at the beginning of the summer of 1902 investigating the possibility of locating here and building a brand new hospital. He had come from Libby, Montana and found he had to take the examination with the state medical board before he could realize his plans.

Rumor became fact when the local citizens read the Kootenai County Republican of Sandpoint, Idaho on Friday, August 22, 1902. It was right there on page one that a site for the new hospital had been chosen and "the contract for the building let." Dr. Goddard had returned and planned to build a frame building, 24 by 50 feet, and it would have two stories.

The hospital was to be located "adjoining the Alex Piatt property at the North end of town, near the company houses." The paper goes on to say, "the wards and operating room will occupy the first floor, while upstairs will be located the private rooms."

Not only were the people of Sandpoint to have their own modern hospital but for the first time they were offered affordable health care. A local paper, The Republican, announced that "tickets will be sold at $12 each, which will entitle the holder thereof to medicines, medical and surgical treatment and board and lodging at the hospital during a period of 12 months."

Not far behind the Goddard undertaking was hospital number two. The Northern Idaho News, on May 23, 1903 announced, "Dr. Onas F. Page established a hospital in the residence of Alex and Rosa Piatt at 719 North Third Avenue." By the end of June 1904, both the Goddard and first Page hospitals were closed.

A new hospital was erected by Dr. O.F. Page and opened its doors in April 1907. It was a three-story frame building located near Sand Creek and adjacent to the current Bonner General Hospital. It became the Page Hospital that many people of the area still remember.

After the opening of the Goddard and Page hospitals, action in the health care industry gained momentum. Trying to keep up with all the small hospitals being opened was like watching popcorn pop. The fact that there was no licensing required in opening a hospital, many came and went. All one had to do was find or build a house, move in some beds and an operating

One of the best known hospitals opened and run by a Registered Nurse was the Parnell located at 321 and 323 South Euclid. Hazel Hall of Sandpoint gives the following history. "During the depression they closed the Page down, they couldn't make a go of it. Mrs. Parnell had been a nurse at the Page hospital and she just couldn't stand to think of there not being a hospital. So she put together her house and joined it with another house. That became the Parnell hospital. The buildings have been disconnected now. She put it together and the small part was the maternity ward. That is where my daughter Loyce was born.

Hazel continued, "Mrs. Parnell had a Dr. Neil Wendall working with her at the Parnell Hospital. He was a new, young doctor here and Loyce was the first baby he delivered in Sandpoint. He had just come from the University of Chicago and his dad, old Doc Wendall, was already in town. We paid the doctor $25 for the delivery and $10 a day for the room and in those days they kept you there 10 days--$100 dollars and that was a lot of money."

"Our son Bob was born at the Graham Hospital located on South First Avenue. They opened up the Page Hospital again and Dann was born there."

Hazel stated, "We did have doctors in town. We had old Doc Page, I guess he was just about retired then. We had Dr. Evans, Dr. Tyler, Dr. Wendall and there were others. I can remember those. Ross, one morning not long after we were married, thought he had swallowed some poison. It had a cross bone on it, you know, and he drank it some way. We got so scared we called old Doc Evans and he was there faster than 911 and he gave Ross something and told him he was all right and we paid him right there, no book work see, and he charged us a dollar." (When this story was relayed to Frank Evans, Dr. Evan's son, he said, "That was probably the only dollar he saw all week. It was usually carrots and potatoes").

Litehouse Foods

"Floating Down The River"

World War II was over and Sandpoint was growing in population. The old must give way to the new especially in the hospital field. The many small, ill-equipped old buildings had done their job but the time for change had come. The area needed a new hospital. A group of concerned citizens headed by Homer Woodard, J.M. Brown Jr., Don Diehl, James Breinich, Ross Hall, and E.F. Hitchner worked to find a solution for the health care problem and eventually the answer appeared. Someone had heard that there was an infirmary building for sale at Farragut and off they went to take a look.

Transporting the hospital from Farragut to Sandpoint.
Click photo to enlarge

Building 1027 seemed to be just what the doctor ordered and plans were made to purchase it. There was a small problem that confronted the group and that was how to move a building, that was almost a city block long, to Sandpoint. Moving by land was out of the question. Someone had the brilliant idea of cutting the old infirmary into sections and floating them up the lake the 45 miles to Sandpoint. Other buildings from the station had been purchased and brought down by boat to be used as homes, why not a hospital? The deal was done.

Now that there was going to be a new hospital, where was it to go. Four existing buildings sat on the place chosen. The four consisted of the Farmin house, the Allen house, the Pennington house and the old Page hospital. To make room for the future these buildings were torn down.

Over months the sections of the infirmary were piled along Sand Creek. Winter prohibited any work being done for a time as did the shortage of money. Things had gone too far to give up and by shear tenacity the citizens of Sandpoint realized their dream of a new hospital. The doors were opened for all to see in 1950.

For over twenty years the old Farragut building served the people of the community. It was in operation but a short time before a space problem arose and with new technologies being developed at a rapid pace this meant trouble. The old building was not designed to house all the new advances in medicine.

Willie Chapman RN, remembers the old hospital well. "I was there for 11-1/2 years and then they built the new hospital. I worked the 3 to 11 shifts and some of the time I was the only RN in the building and we would have as many as 40 patients. We didn't have room for 40 patients and often we would have six to eight patients out in the hall. The hall was not all that wide and we would have beds and fold-up curtains in the middle of the hallway. It was better than anything we had in the past but it was a far cry from what we have now."

A Dream Come True

It is a known fact that you grow or wither. Everyone knew that the old hospital from Farragut was temporary and sooner or later a new hospital would have to come on the scene. It seemed a momentous task for anyone to undertake. Where would the money come from and what design should it have to keep pace with modern technology? These were the questions that had to be answered before proceeding. The board of trustees got a nudge from the State Department of Health in 1965. They were told that the existing structure would have to be replaced within five years.

In the expected Sandpoint way people went to work. Input was sought from doctors and hospital workers to try to determine exactly what type building was needed to meet the health care needs of the area. A grant from the government helped defray some of the expenses and plans were drawn up. These plans became a reality on a cold November 3, 1973. The new Bonner General Hospital had become a reality and was dedicated. The people of Sandpoint had their hospital.

What was the difference between the old hospital and the new? Phyllis Book, LPN, best answers that question, when she said, "it's another world."

Over time many changes have been made at the hospital and just recently a new addition was dedicated. It is another step by the community to keep up with the ever-changing health care field. Willie Chapman best explains the impact this new addition has on one. She was the first recovery room nurse, the first emergency room supervisor and the first outpatient surgery supervisor. She was the first RN at Bonner General Hospital that knew how to do CPR. She worked at the hospital for 31 years but when she saw the new addition she said, "I wanted to go back to work."

The Common Thread

There seems to be a common thread present in the healing of people. It does not matter if it is in an old house along the creek or in a modern hospital like BGH. What is it that makes true healing take place, healing of mind, body and soul? This common thread is evident in the following statements.

Willie Chapman, RN stated, "We were like family and it's always been that way. Over in the old hospital it was always like that, everybody got along, every body did the best work they could. You did whatever you could do and helped each other out. We gave good patient care and when we went to the new building this part went with us. It didn't matter what department you worked in because every department worked together to give excellent patient care."

Buzz Arndt, local businessman, went through the Cardiac Rehab program at BGH. He reflects. "I really feel that if I had had the Cardiac Rehab program after my first by-pass I would have prolonged the second one by a long time. It's the people. They all took such a personal interest in how I was doing. When I met a staff member on the street or in the market they would always stop, look me over, and determine that I was doing everything I could for my health. I don't think you could find a more effective system anyplace. To anyone who has had problems with their heart I would encourage them to do themselves a favor and investigate the possibility of Cardiac Rehab. The security it gives can't be measured."

Phyllis Book, LPN, has been with BGH since 1971 and presently works as the Pre-surgical Assessment Coordinator. She feels the new addition to the hospital will enable care to be more private and more efficient. Phyllis stated," I am very proud to be a member of this staff. I have a lot of pride in the fact that we give good care and that we are a small hospital with modern equipment."

Cherry Glazier RN, was born at the old Page Hospital and took her nursing training at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. She works in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at BGH. She has been with the hospital since 1970 and says, "I have a lot of pride in our hospital. We are like a family and it is a wonderful place."

Gwen Pogue RN, has been with the hospital since 1971 and works in Surgical Services. She came to Sandpoint with her husband, David, who was the first registered physical therapist in town. "We brought something from the old building with us to the new. TLC (tender loving care) and employees who are very closely bonded and supportive of each other and that reflects to the patients."

Karen Cole said, "My father had a heart attack and I was in the hospital day and night for a while. I was scared and though I did not know any of the staff they seemed to know me. They knew what I was feeling and what I needed. Members of every department I encountered showed that they cared. They smiled for me when I had no smiles left. They seemed to lend me their energy when mine had been depleted."

Caring is the common thread that runs through Bonner General Hospital, the old and the new. Caring for each other as a family and caring for the patients entrusted to them. You need only talk to a volunteer, a member of housekeeping, maintenance, dietary, nursing or any other department and it will show itself. That is what real healing is all about.

When you walk in the door of our hospital you feel the pride and when you walk out you will share the pride.

All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.

:: History Articles & Stories ::

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