MVH grows from ‘Noble’ beginnings to nursing school
Editor’s note: This is the second part to the history of the Muncy Valley Hospital. In the last article that began with the founding fathers, Dr. Wilbur E. Turner and Dr. Joseph W. Albright were mistakenly missing from the list. The two doctors also met at the home of Dr. James Rankin in 1920 for the first meeting of the “Muncy Valley Medical Association.” The following information was compiled from the August 2003 issue of Now and Then.
MUNCY – The hospital opened officially on September 19, 1923 after the Noble Mansion on East Water Street was renovated under the direction of the Muncy Valley Medical Association. A wing was added on the northeast corner of the building.
A “modern ambulance” also was added thanks to the financial help of the public. According to Linda Poulton’s research from the Muncy Historical Society in the August issue of Now and Then, the vehicle was built on a Durant chasis and the body was designed and built by Arthur Fisher of Muncy. Painted a “dust gray”, it was trimmed in black with a red cross on the sides and accented with gold lettering. “It was equipped with special bearings and shock absorbers and carried a first aid kit, hot and cold water, and a pulmotor.”
The hospital itself had two beds per room and a few had three and four beds furnished with steel tables, wicker chairs, rag rugs and reading lamps. Private rooms were also available for an extra fee. “The nursery was complete with six bassinets and three cribs were available for infants and small children.”
Three resgistered nurses were on staff and a patient could request a private nurse for personal care. A training school for nurses was also established offering classes in anatomy and drug therapy. Lectures were given on pediatric and obstetrical nursing, surgical nursing and ethics for nursing. In fact, the Muncy Valley Hospital was a pioneer in this endeavor and the school was in operation from 1923 through 1950. The curriculum was offered to “all young women, aged 18 through 35, of good health and character with a high school education.” About 45 young women became LPN’s through the hospital. Five of them graduated in 1933 with commencement exercises held at the Lutheran Church.
Stockholders met in 1932 and decided to charge four dollars per bed regardless of location. By March 1933 physicians delivering obstetrical care had to pay the hospital five dollars per case. As expenses continued to rise, the board lowered the salaries of the employees.
By 1935 the board began to record hospital statistics. There were 307 admissions, 1,649 in-hospital stays, 10 deaths and 39 births. In 1936 admissions jumped to 362. “With expenses mounting the board decided to reduce the level of insurance on the building from $20,000 to $15,000 and to put the ambulance up for sale.”
A new charter was drawn up and in 1937 the name changed to Muncy Valley Hospital. The interior was painted and linoleum was laid in two front rooms on the third floor. A big challenge came when tragedy struck the community in 1938. Headlines in The Muncy Luminary read “Raft Meets Disaster At Muncy.” The occurrence of “The Last Raft” brought in lots of extra help that included fire and police personnel. 38 of the 45 people on board were saved from “watery graves.” Some of the survivors were taken to the Muncy Valley Hospital and some to the home of Valentine Fenstermaker whose home rested on the river bank near the river bridge.
There were makeshift emergency rooms set up for this catastrophe and many children who were on the riverbank that day never forgot what they saw. By the 1930s childhood accidents were a large contributor to the 500 patients that were seen that year. Jean Reuther was only 8 years old when she went to visit her grandfather’s farm. She said she was riding high on top of a wagon when it stopped and she didn’t. She fell and broke her arm according to a report in ‘Connections’ magazine, a publication printed in the 80’s from the hospital.
The board reported 319 admissions in 1939 and it jumped to 395 in 1940. Also that year they moved the “accident room” to two downstairs rooms. By 1941 there were 641 admissions, 13 deaths and 69 births. The hospital became debt free and in 1944 the mortgage and all the bills were satisfied for the first time. A resolution to build a new building came in December 1944 which would contain at least 50 beds.