According to then chairman of the building committee for the Fort Morgan Community Hospital, Leonard Keagy, our current health facility was described as “the only hospital in Colorado built and paid for by popular subscription”. A Fort Morgan Times editorial written by George Epperson, a Fort Morgan attorney, sparked a community-wide effort that reached fruition nearly ten years after it was anonymously published on June 24, 1943.
Four months after the editorial appeared, 63 representatives met at the Elks Lodge to lay the groundwork for incorporation of what would soon be, the Fort Morgan Community Hospital Association. The Association remains in existence today and is instrumental in providing support, guidance and funding for equipment and other capital needs, in order for the hospital to continue providing quality care.
On a cold, winter day, on Sunday, January 20, 1952, the Association held a dedication ceremony with 3,000 people in attendance. In presenting the hospital to the community, Clyde Barkley was quoted saying, “the most earnest prayer would be that this community will give to this institution its unquestioned loyalty, the support and cooperation it so richly deserves and so essential to its success”.
The hospital served its first patient that day after someone in the crowd passed out during the ceremony and was whisked inside to be treated.
The facility officially opened its doors to the public on February 5, 1952, after an endowment fund had been established and the landscaping surrounding the building was completed.
After its first two years of operation, 1,545 patients were seen; 1,037 emergency room visits were recorded; and 421 babies delivered with local businessman, Larry Jenson, being the first baby born in the Fort Morgan Community Hospital.
At this time, the hospital met the standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals and has continued to keep its certification since 1954. Accreditation is a voluntary program and a very demanding one. Only a small percentage of hospitals of similar size have achieved this accreditation, with standards higher than those required by law.
The hospital has undergone several expansions and remodels since that winter day in 1952 when it first treated patients. The first major expansion was launched in the spring of 1956, when the construction of a new wing for the care of the chronically ill and aged was completed. It ran south from the east side of the existing structure and contained 15 beds, a sun room, and a recreation area. The area was later converted into more general care after Valley View Villa was built in 1974.
In 1963, a major $350,000 project was started. A diagnostic and treatment center with two major operating rooms, a minor surgery room, a recovery room an x-ray area, an enlarged laboratory and physical therapy area were built in the basement of the hospital. The maternity section on the main floor was also enlarged at this time.
In May of 1968, the coronary care and intensive care unit was completed. The Fort Morgan Community Hospital was the first hospital in the state with less than 100 beds to have such a unit.
A specialty clinic program was initiated in 1978 by local physicians, Dr. Ham Jackson and Dr. Robert Richards, where medical specialists would come to the hospital to see patients on a monthly basis.
An interim management contract was signed with Brim in February of 1986. The company assisted the hospital with remodeling the obstetrics wing and front lobby later that year.
The small ICU was remodeled and expanded in scope and capabilities in 1991 when it received a new hospital location and state-of-the-art monitoring equipment.
In the mid 90’s, Brim merged with a company called Principle to form Province Healthcare, a publicly traded company who oversaw the management of the hospital’s operations for nearly ten years.
In 1995, the Association launched the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the hospital. The “Partners in Progress” campaign raised $5 million, which built the front entrance, remodeled the surgery area, emergency room, the ICU, laboratory, and imaging services area. New equipment not normally available in rural communities could now be found in the ICU and radiology departments. In October of 1998, Province built a 10-bed inpatient acute rehabilitation unit. Due to changes in reimbursement, the rehabilitation unit stopped admitting patients in 2006. Plans are currently underway to develop the space into a geriatric behavioral unit.
In the year 2002, the hospital completed a sizeable expansion and remodeling project. The obstetrics unit doubled its size and currently offers nine private birthing suites for its patients. Approximately 40-50 babies are born every month at Colorado Plains Medical Center.
The general patient rooms on the med/surg floor also received a face-lift at this time with the newly decorated patient rooms containing a new modified headwall system for in-room oxygen.
The nurses received a new nurse station with better visibility of the two wings on the med/surg floor as well as a new nurse call system. The cardiac and pulmonary therapy department was expanded and moved into a newly remodeled area, as did the business office operations and medical records department.
In August of 2004, Province Healthcare announced plans to merge with LifePoint Hospitals, of which CPMC is an affiliated company.
Construction of a new Medical Office Building (MOB) on the hospital’s campus was completed in 2005. It currently houses the hospital's sleep lab as well as the outpatient physical, occupational, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation unit. The building's roof sports a helipad for emergency transfers. Several physician practices have located to the building, including those of Dr. Michelle Soriano, OB/GYN; Dr. Anne Manchester, Internist; Dr. James Smith, General Surgeon; and Dr. Tom Manchester, General Surgeon. Space is also leased to UCHealth, where several visiting specialists hold weekly clinics. The Specialty Clinic can also be found on the first floor adjacent to the Center for Rehabilitation & Wellness. More than fourteen specialists hold monthly clinics at the Specialty Clinic.
In addition to the hospital's interesting and colorful history, several healthcare pioneers played a significant role in the hospital's history. A Prairie High School student, McKinley Thompson, authored a 2017 paper on some of the community's pioneers of healthcare. The research paper can be accessed by clicking here.
Since its creation, not one dollar of tax money from any source has gone into the construction or operation of the hospital. Colorado Plains Medical Center is, in the truest sense, a living monument of the generosity, loyalty and determination of the citizens of this community to provide the best available hospital care for themselves and their children. The motto, “that we may leave to our children a heritage worthwhile” has not only furnished the inspiration and encouragement for campaign contributions almost a half of a century ago, remains true today.
If you are interested in being part of CPMC’s legacy and wish to make a donation, please contact the Fort Morgan Community Hospital Association at 542-3346.