"...Ocala must have a hospital to care for the sick and injured."
On December 6, 2011 Munroe Regional Medical Center History Wall was unveiled at an evening reception in the Johnson Lobby. This project began almost two years ago, when retired physicians approached Beth McCall, executive director of the Munroe Foundation, about honoring the role that Munroe has played in Marion County. Completely funded by donations from members of the community including retired physicians, families of physicians and even current staff, the history wall beautifully showcases the hospital from our first location on the top floor of the Ocala Evening Daily Star building to the current facility which has 421 beds. Many of the families also donated memorabilia to be displayed; currently we have several black bags with original needles and stethoscopes, Dr. Chambers’ white coat, and ledgers dating back to the early 1920s. The Wednesday evening reception was held to thank all those that donated to the wall and to let them be the first to view Munroe’s history wall. The history wall is located on the third floor between the OR and ICU waiting rooms.
See the photo album on Facebook.com/munroeregional.
Over the years, Munroe Regional Medical Center's true hallmark has been its commitment to its mission, "to improve the health of our community by delivering compassionate, innovative care through exceptional people doing extraordinary works."
The Need for a Hospital
It all started back in 1898, when Mr. Ben Rheinauer, owner of a dry goods store, was one of the first people to reach the side of a man who had just been accidentally run down by a horse and wagon as he attempted to cross Exposition Street (now Broadway). Dr. E. Van Hood and Dr. La Foss joined "Mr. Ben" as he rushed into the street to assist the victim whose leg was broken. The man needed immediate medical attention and there was no place to take him except to Dr. Van Hood's office where he was treated.
As they removed the victim from the dusty, unpaved street, Mr. Ben said, "This is another example of why Ocala must have a hospital to care for the sick and injured." His remarks, made in a moment of stress, fired the imagination of other community leaders who had been discussing the need for a hospital for years.
Joining Mr. Ben and Dr. Van Hood in planning the hospital were Dr. S. P. Eagleton, Dr. A.L. Izlar, C.H. Campbell and C.L. Bittinger, editor of the Ocala Evening Daily Star. The Rev. J.C. Porter published The Star and owned a three-story building at the corner of Fort King and Osceola. Mr. Bittinger knew the top floor was empty and Rev. Porter agreed to make it available, free of charge, for use as the temporary hospital, which was named Marion General Hospital. It was far from ideal, because of the narrow stairs and limited space, but it was a place to start and grow. The new hospital had no orderlies and only a few nurses. In emergencies, doctors recruited help from The Star editorial and composing room staff located on the second floor.
From the beginning, it was obvious this location was inadequate. In April 1901, the hospital moved to a three-story building located at the corner of Adams and Orange Street, now Northwest Second Street and First Avenue. It was an improvement, particularly for access, but remained a makeshift arrangement until 1915 when the third hospital move was made to a new frame building built on top of a hill on South OrangeStreet. This beautifully located facility had broad cool verandas on both floors where convalescing patients could breathe the fresh air and enjoy the rolling landscape. In an emergency, the new hospital could take care of 50 patients. In 1916, the Superintendent's Report noted that the total hospital expenses for the year ran $6,704, which included the salaries of the superintendent, nurses, cooks, janitor, chamber maid and laundresses. There were 232 patients admitted that year with patients staying an average of 12.9 days. (In 2009, Munroe Regional admitted 24,077 patients and the average length of stay was 4.39 days).
With banker T.T. Munroe taking the lead, lengthy discussions began to take place in the mid 1920s about building a larger facility on the same property. As the result of the passage of a bond issue by City of Ocala voters, a 73-bed hospital was built in 1927, which today serves as administrative offices. The hospital changed its name from Marion General Hospital to Munroe Memorial Hospital in honor of Mr. Munroe's leadership and contributions to the growth of the hospital.
It wasn't too long after the Second World War that the issue of overcrowding and need for growth came to the forefront again. Marion County's population had grown from 28,000 in 1928, to 43,000 in 1956. Hospital admissions were continuing to grow and a decision was made to build in three phases. By the early 1960's the phases had been completed and the hospital had 130 beds. From the 70's to today, there has been continued growth in healthcare developments and services at the hospital, so much so that in 1980, Munroe Memorial Hospital changed its name to Munroe Regional Medical Center (MRMC) to reflect its depth of services and the expanded community that it was now serving. By 1994 the hospital's continued expansion had brought its bed count to 323.
In 2003, Munroe Regional's most recent expansion project was completed. This 200,000 square foot expansion project expanded the medical center's capacity to 421 beds and included 150 new, private patient rooms.
Expansion at Munroe Regional has gone beyond the walls of the hospital and includes other medical services to outlying areas; i.e.: Speech & Hearing Center, Midwives of Ocala, Diabetes Healthways, Munroe Regional's LifeTime Centers providing cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, as well as physical therapy, in Ocala, Belleview and Lady Lake and Munroe Regional's Medical Park at TimberRidge. The Medical Park is home to medical offices, a LifeTime Center, an award winning Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, and Collins Health Resource Center. In 2002, Munroe Regional opened the state of Florida's first free-standing emergency department. Munroe Regional's Emergency Center at TimberRidge carries on the hospital's commitment to meeting the changing healthcare needs of the community. The Emergency Center at TimberRidge emphasizes convenience, efficiency and a rapid, attentive response to patient needs. Twenty-four hour staffing by a team of emergency specialists, streamlined registration and processing, 12 exam rooms, as well as four additional rooms utilized for rapid, non-urgent patients, and cutting-edge technology combine to ensure quality, effective treatment. It is the same quality and effective emergency treatment that patients receive at Munroe Regional's downtown emergency department. Since opening in 2002, the Emergency Center at TimberRidge has provided care to over 170,550 patients.
Beyond the Bricks and Mortar
Munroe Regional's President and CEO Steve Purves will be the first to tell you that there's a key component to the successful growth of Munroe Regional that goes beyond the building expansions, renovations, and additional services, it's Munroe Regional's people. In a collaborative process that involves administrators, board members, trustees, physicians, associates, volunteers, government officials, hospital consultants, architects, and community members these individuals combine talents, professionalism and enthusiasm to ensure Munroe Regional's delivery of first-class healthcare.
Not only is Munroe Regional one of the largest employers in the area, it also has one of the highest retention rates of any employer in Marion County. Currently, Munroe Regional has 41 associates with 30+ years of service, 51 associates with 25-30 years of service, 106 associates with 20-25 years of service, 177 associates with 15-20 years of service, 318 associates with 10 -15 years of service, and 646 associates with 5-10 years of service.
If you were to bump into one of these associates, they'd more than likely share a fond memory or two. Some might recall when there were less than 200 associates and a mere handful of doctors. You might hear about "the fathers' labor room," a small ante-room off the delivery room, where an intercommunications hook-up between the rooms allowed the father to hear his baby's first cry, note the time of birth, and get the news as to whether it was a boy or girl. Or, you might be told about the days when the hospital maintained its own large vegetable garden in order to produce food for the patients. And, in years to come, there will be those who look back on a recent expansion and have stories to tell.
But, the community can rest assured that Munroe Regional will continue to take the necessary steps to insure that the hospital meets not only present but future healthcare needs of the community, as "Mr. Ben," T.T. Munroe, and others would have expected.