Community part of impressive hospital history

Friday, November 18, 2005

In the 123-year history of McCook, there is no better symbol of progress than the hospital. The health care story -- here as elsewhere -- is amazing, starting with doctors on horseback and one-room offices in the 1880s, and progessing to a well-staffed, technologically advanced, multi-million dollar medical campus in 2005.

For many years, the hospital's growth was slow and steady, starting with a group of rooms operated by Dr. W.V. Gage in 1896 above the original First National Bank building at what is now Norris Avenue and B Street.

Townspeople finally took the responsibility for the hospital on their own shoulders in 1921, raising $75,000 to build the first part of the St. Catherine's of Sienna Hospital on West Fourth Street.

The people responded again in 1971, contributing $600,000 to construct the modernistic, pod-designed Community Hospital on open land northeast of East 11th and H Streets.

For the community, the historic importance of the hospital projects is indisputable. The people rose to the occasion. They met the need.

Yet, as we pay tribute to the health care pioneers, we must also give credit to the current generation of McCook area residents, who have helped accomplish the most extensive period of growth in the history of McCook health care.

The phenomenal growth, which is continuing, has taken place during the administratation of hospital president Gary Bieganski, who will retire Dec. 31, 2006, following 28 years of service.

As Gary is quick to point out, the growth would not have been possible without the efforts of the community, the medical staff and the board of directors.

But the appreciation needs to go two ways. Gary has been a man of vision, dedicated to bringing the best possible medical care to the McCook community and the surrounding region of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas.

Says Jim Ulrich, the person chosen as Bieganski's successor: "Gary has made sure that all we do at Community Hospital meets three standards. First, it must be of the highest quality. Second, it must stand the test of time, and, third and most important, it must serve the needs of the people."

Exciting new projects are taking place at Community Hospital, and greater advances will take place in the future. But, as we move on, we need to express our thanks to Gary Bieganski and the other members of the Community Hospital team for the contributions they have made to McCook health care.

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