On Dec. 1, Sumner Regional Medical Center will celebrate its 60th anniversary of serving Sumner County and surrounding communities. In the months leading up to the official anniversary date, they will celebrate by looking back at its history, influential people and milestones.
The hospital, originally named Sumner County Memorial Hospital, first opened to the public on Dec. 1, 1959. But years of work, planning and politics led the way to facilitate the birth of Sumner County’s first hospital. It began in 1957, when The Sumner County Hospital Commission was formed by the Sumner County Quarterly Court.
The first original board members for the hospital were elected in 1957. These members were J.H. Shoulders, George Pardue, W.L. “Billy” Bone, Maynard Meguiar and Clyde Bell. County Judge Stokely Dismukes assisted this initial group by serving as chairman of the initial meetings, including the first meeting held on June 23, 1958 at the Cordell Hull Hotel in Gallatin.
This group hired John Deans as the first administrator of the hospital, who voluntarily proposed a pay cut from his previous job in Winston-Salem, NC, just for the “challenge of starting a new hospital from the beginning.” Deans served as hospital administrator from 1958-1967.
Sumner County Memorial Hospital was funded largely by the Hill-Burton Act, along with state and county assistance. Sumner County contributed more than $270,000 to the first budget, but since that time, the hospital has operated independently of the county.
The first official employee of the hospital was Peggy Vantrease, who was the secretary for John Deans. Sumner County Memorial Hospital was billed as “the state’s most modern facility” and featured air-conditioning, oxygen piped through the walls and an auxiliary heating unit.
The original staff of physicians included: Dr. Thomas Carter, Dr. James Troutt, Dr. Walter Stephenson, Dr. John Wallace, Dr. Joe Blackshear, Dr. W. M. Dedman, and Dr. Robert Webster. Webster was the first Chief-of-Staff.
On opening day, there were only 50 employees and 54 beds. However, by the end of the first year of operation, the new hospital had admitted 1,585 patients. Additionally, 329 babies were born, with the first being born on Dec. 2, 1959. There were 911 visits to the emergency room and 440 operations performed.