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History of Parmer Medical Center

The history of Parmer County would not be complete without the story of how Parmer Medical Center was established.  From the beginning of Parmer County’s existence it was recognized that there was a need for medical care.  In 1945 the population of Parmer County was just under 5,000 and the idea of establishing a hospital took hold.

The first “hospital” (really a clinic type setting) was in the upstairs of a bank on the northwest corner of Main and 5th Street.  The first physician, Dr. Dan Hampton, began practicing in this location in 1946.  He resigned later that year and Dr. Cecil Simmons replaced him.

Responding to the public’s appeal for help, a small number of progressive individuals raised $45,000 in one year and purchased barracks which were army surplus medical units from the prisoner of war camp at Hereford, Texas.  This setting of the new hospital that was constructed from the barracks buildings was established at the northwest corner of Hwy 60 and Cleveland Avenue; it was remodeled and opened in April 1947 as Parmer County Community Hospital (later known as PCCH).  The first physician to practice there was Dr. Cecil Simmons and Dr. Robert Stokes replaced him in May of 1947.  The first nurse to work at Parmer County Community Hospital was Gladys Wilson, R.N.  Mr. David Crow was the first hospital manager.  The first baby born at PCCH was Janine Wiley and the physician didn’t make it in time to deliver her; Gladys Wilson, R.N., “caught” the baby.  The second baby born at PCCH was someone that was just passing through Friona and stopped at the hospital to have her baby.  The third baby born at PCCH was Lynn Wilson Nelson, R.N., who at this writing has been a hospital employee for the last 30 years.

During the first years the hospital was open, growth was rapid.  By 1954 the population of Parmer County had almost doubled.  Hospital business was booming.  824 patients were hospitalized, 159 babies born and 15,000 outpatient visits took place in 1954.  It became apparent that a new hospital was needed.  Although they had a building, it was crowded and not fireproof.  Also, there was no separate space designated for emergency services.  Patients who needed immediate or emergency care were treated in either the surgery room or the doctor’s office.

On August 20, 1956, a small group of citizens gathered to discuss the building of a new facility; they were:  Pete Buske, Frank Spring, Jim Shaffer, Joe Poindexter and Sloan Osborn.  The kind of facility built was just as important as the size.  Major factors considered was that it needed to be fireproof and have ductwork that greatly reduced the chances of cross contamination.  Heat sterilization methods were needed for instruments and dishes.  This new structure itself was reported to have cost $75,000 to build and $57,000 of this was paid for through the purchase of certificates.  These purchasers were known as “members” and received a discount for services rendered to them or their families.  Anyone who was employed by the hospital was not eligible to become a “member”.  A “new wing” was added in 1963 and is still referred to as the “new wing”.  On the same note the clean utility room was painted blue and has been called the “blue room” from the beginning of this hospital building in 1958.  The total cost for the hospital was more than $201,000 and has served the community over the last fifty plus years.

2006 was a year that saw even more growth and change.  Parmer County held a bond election to build a replacement hospital facility; the issue passed by an overwhelming majority and construction of the new facility began in December 2007 with completion targeted for late summer 2009.  The medical community has always had the full support of the citizens of Parmer County and looks forward to many more years of service.

Some historical information about Parmer Medical Center:

In 1965 we had the most doctors at one time.  We had 5 physicians:  Dr. Paul Spring, Dr. Lee Spring, Dr. Robert Alexander, Dr. Humphrey and Dr. Lee Cranfill.  This was the year Dr. Alexander came here.  Dr. Humphrey and Dr. Lee Cranfill moved from here later.

Permission to publish the following information received from Margie Rivera on May 29, 2009.  In 1985 the last baby born at PCCH was Joshua Rivera (Date of Birth 1/18/1985) son of Ruben and Margie Rivera.  Dr. Lee Spring had already retired a few weeks earlier but told Margie that he would come back and deliver her baby since it was to be the last one.

In 1988 the first patient transported by helicopter to another hospital (in Lubbock) took place; this service from Lubbock was AeroCare and still operates and serves Parmer Medical Center.

In 1990 Dr. Paul Spring retired having first come here in 1951.

• Female MDs, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists who worked at the hospital:
     - 1965 Gladys Wilson, RN/CRNA
     - Early 1990’s Tracy Toten, M.D., Natasha Shah, M.D. and Linda Conley, P.A.; Linda Conley was the first P.A. to work at the
     - June 1, 1995 Suzanne Bunker, P.A.
    -  2001 Cathey Hamman, F.N.P.; Cathey was the first Nurse Practitioner to work at the hospital.

• Various clinic names:
     - 1965 Friona Medical Surgical Clinic
     - 1970 Spring, Spring, Alexander and Associates
     - 1985 Friona Medical Clinic (this was the year they quit doing surgery and delivering babies)
     - March 5, 1993 Friona Rural Health Clinic

In October 1993 Dr. Felipe Jubay joined the clinic and hospital.

In 1995 Dr. Anthony Orme joined the clinic and hospital and stayed one year before moving back to Oklahoma.

Mary Lou Venhaus, R.N.’s memory of the tornado in June of 1995 as told by her:
Tornado hit Friona.  The hospital itself was unharmed.  We were operating on generator power because of no electricity.  People who were on oxygen generators at home came into the hospital so they could continue to use their oxygen with the help of our generated electricity.  Medical personnel from surrounding towns came with supplies and a willingness to help.  I specifically remember a doctor and nurse from Clovis and others from Hereford and Dimmitt.  I can remember sewing up people with lacerations in the hallways because the lighting was better, not good, just better.  Numerous people, mostly from Hi-Pro, were brought to the hospital for treatment.  Fortunately, most of the injuries were minor except or one man who was badly injured and was transferred to an Amarillo hospital.  Some of our key personnel like Dr. Alexander (he was off fishing in Mexico), Bill Neely (he was off fishing also) and Lynn Nelson, R.N., our Director of Nursing, were out of town for the weekend so the rest of us just picked up and did what was needed.  I was at home eating a hamburger when the wind started to blow.  We didn’t know anything had happened until we saw people gathering in the street outside our home.  When I heard a tornado had hit, I came in to work because I knew that extra help would be needed.  The medical staff here at that time were:  Dr Jubay, Dr. Orme and Suzanne Bunker, P.A.

In 2001 a new clinic was built adjacent to the hospital.  Dr. Jeffrey Dickson, a local boy, came home to begin his practice at PCCH and his first day to work was August 1, 2001, the same day the new clinic opened.

The shortage of Registered Nurses is a continuous problem.  At one time around 1994 we recruited three nurses from Canada; two of these nurses practiced here for one year.

In 2003 Lance Gatlin, who grew up in Friona, began working at PCCH.  He is currently the hospital administrator.

In November of 2007 ground breaking for the new hospital was held.  On May 21, 2009, the hospital name officially changed from Parmer County Community Hospital to Parmer Medical Center. 

Dr. Felix Morales joined Friona Rural Health Clinic and Parmer Medical Center on January 19, 2009.

With the completion of Phase I of the building project, the hospital moved into their new building on January 20, 2010.  As part of Phase II, the old building was taken down to make way for the new entrance and parking lot. The new state of the art facility encompasses over 37,000 square feet.  The Grand Opening to celebrate was held on October 22, 2010.