In 1892, Hillsboro's first hospital was located on block #32 in northwest Hillsboro (near what is now the entrance to the golf course). United Norwegian Church (now Our Saviorís Lutheran Church), under the leadership of Rev. Jens Lonne, turned a school house into a 36-patient hospital for Dr. J. L. O. Moeller, who came from Norway. The building cost $9,000. It employed five nurses and had cows sufficient to supply milk. It was one of the most complete and modern hospitals in the West. Unfortunately, records don't show what happened to this building.
The next hospital was privately owned by Dr. A. G. Anderson and consisted of rooms above the Hillsboro Banner office when the Banner was located where Dakota Heritage Bank now stands on West Caledonia Avenue.
Dr. S. Vinje had a private one-bed hospital in conjunction with his office over Lien Drug Store, now Hillsboro Drug. Anna Johnson, his nurse, lived there. A number of residents tell of being in that hospital.
LeeAnn Fankhanel was born in Dr. Vinje's hospital on April 3, 1950. The cost of her birth was $95.00 after a five dollar discount for cash. Dr. Vinje was 80 years old at that time.
In May 1946, a group of seven, L. D. Best, R. W. Johnston, R. G. Bovaird, Rev. R. T. Schuricht, Nestor Lemm, Chauncey T. Kaldor and Chas. H. Shafer, formed a corporation and called it Community Hospital Association. They remodeled space above the old bank and Johnson Stores and opened the hospital for patient reception on January 5, 1947. The entrance was on Caledonia Avenue and patients had to go up numerous steps to the second floor. Stories are told about patients being carried up those steps by diners from Sorum's Cafe across the street. Facilities at the hospital included two four-bed wards, one of which was a maternity ward, a combination delivery/surgery room, two two-bed wards and two three-bed wards. There were only four full-time nurses at the time and the greatest difficulty was hiring part-time nurses and relief nurses to assist the permanent staff. An appeal was made to the community for help. The bylaws governing the operation and policies of the hospital were adopted on December 17, 1946 and, with a few minor changes, still direct the Hospital Association (now Hillsboro Medical Center) at the present time.
During its first year, Community Hospital Association served 246 patients and 40 babies made their debut. Numerous surgery cases ranging from simple tonsillectomies to major ruptured peptic ulcer operations were performed. Physicians using the facility included Drs. Cable, Vinje, LaFluer, Erickson and Little. Through the years the hospital dealt with problems of finance and personnel, not unlike today.
The present hospital building was started in the fall of 1950 and opened November 3, 1953. The cost was $80,000, with much of its work done by volunteers. An additional $10,000 was needed to equip the hospital. It was built entirely on donations with no government monies involved. The Hillsboro Park District and the Solomon Comstock family donated the land on which the hospital now stands. It had 14 double rooms, seven nurses and one physician. Bob and Helen Kuhle, along with other staff members, were instrumental in packing and moving supplies to the new hospital. Ron Mehl remembered being handed the medication supply and told to keep it in safe-keeping during the transition.
The first babies born in the new hospital were the Larson twins, Paulette Joy and Pamela Joy, on Sunday, November 1, 1953. Esther Larson went into labor before the hospital was ready and waited at Dr. McLean's home for the doors to open. It cost the Larsons $9 per day for Estherís room. Later that month, Dr. McLean and his wife were the parents of another set of twins, Robert and Patrick, born at the hospital.
There were hospital financial drives every fall to keep it in existence. These drives continued into the early 1970s. The hospital made its first profit, $207.57, in 1957. At that time, general room rates had increased to $11, while a private room without a stool was $12 and a private room with a stool cost $13. Pediatrics charged $9.50 per day.
Despite the profit, there were still problems. There were physical problems with the building and grounds that needed to be addressed: a section of the furnace boiler was replaced, the floor leaked, the roof leaked, there were heating problems, the south end of the building settled five inches, there was hail damage and it was overcrowded. In 1960, an addition was built on the east side by Alex Vettel and his crew, which alleviated some of those problems.
In the winter of 1957-58, the Hospital Auxiliary was formed to assist the hospital in anyway possible. Mrs. J. J. Breen was its first president, Mrs. Vernon Rust, secretary; Mrs. Emmett Gunderson, treasurer; and Mrs. Harold Smith, Mrs. Manley Johnson and Mrs. Morris Thompson, members-at-large.
In 1964, a 50-bed skilled nursing home was added to the south of the original hospital. The combination facilityís name was changed to Community Hospital/Nursing Home Association of Hillsboro, North Dakota. The nursing home was licensed as a skilled nursing care facility. This stabilized the financial problems. Additions to the nursing home were added in 1981 with the Centennial Room and in 19982 with the Sun Room.
Ambulance services were added in January of 1969. For the 22 years prior to that time, Halverson Wildeman Funeral Home handled ambulance services in Hillsboro. Carl Wildeman and Dr. R. W. McLean responded to any medical calls that arose. Due to new equipment, staffing and administrative requirements that came into being, a 24-hour ambulance service was started. George Christians was named temporary ambulance coordinator and George Burck was the training officer. The initial 71-hour first aid course was taught by both Dr. R. W. McLean and Dr. D. J. Breen. The first officers were Jerry Usgaard as president; James Allen as secretary; and Les Hams was first-year equipment officer. Other charter members were Ron Mehl, Ron Rotvold, John Nelson, Ed Olsen, Rev. Keith Ferguson, Russell Smith, Jim Hawkins, Earl Keena, Howard Carver Sr., Perry Knudsvig, Larry Spong, Don Anderson and Dennis Buethner.
Through the years, the Hillsboro Ambulance Service has responded to thousands of ambulance calls and has been assisted by trained community members. Today, the Hillsboro Medical Center is proud to have a trained paramedic on staff and partnering with the critical access hospital, has been designated as a Trauma IV center.
In 1986, a consulting firm, Jackson & Associates, was hired to set up a foundation for the medical center. The Health and Humanities Foundation was chartered on November 10, 1986. Its purpose was to start an endowment fund from which only the interest monies would be spent on items needed for the hospital/nursing home. Executive directors have been Tom McSparron (1987-1993), Val Alfson (1993-1995), Mary Ann Boeddeker (1995-2001) and Angela Kritzberger (2001-present).
In the fall of 1994, the foundation was asked to head the public fundraising for a $1.5 million HMC building project. With this project, the clinic (administered by MeritCare) was added to the HMC facility. Other parts of the project were a three-stall ambulance garage, an expanded physical therapy department, remodeling of several areas of the hospital (including the lab, nurses' station, laundry and maintenance/housekeeping areas) and an upgrade of the mechanical systems throughout the existing building. Again, the community stepped forward and made financial contributions in the amount of more than $450,000 that made these improvements possible.
Other additions and/or expansions have included:
∑ Physical Therapy was added in 1987. Sheila Dahlen and Roberta Votava were the first physical therapists.
∑ Adult Day Care and Sick Child Care were added in the late 1980s.
∑ Home Health Care was started in 1994. It serviced the east half of Traill County in North Dakota and the western half of Norman County in Minnesota, providing nursing and personal care in the home, as well as occupational therapy and physical therapy. In 1994, Patty Hanson was the department head with a staff of four nurses, three nursing assistants and a part-time secretary. In 2001, this service was assumed by Altru Hospital, Grand Forks and is utilized through doctor referral.
Current staffing at the facility is 58 full-time/60 part-time with an annual payroll of $2.5 million. Next to the American Crystal Sugar Company Hillsboro factory, HMC is the second largest employer in Hillsboro. The present administrator is Patricia Dirk. HMC Board members, the administrator and staff continue to try to make the best decisions in providing excellent service for the community, focusing on the mission statement.
Today, the Hillsboro Medical Center is undergoing a $12.5 million expansion and remodeling project (2007-2009) which will house a 20 bed critical access hospital, 36 bed long term care facility, MeritCare clinic, and adding a 16-unit assisted living facility recently named Comstock Corner. The new construction of the two-story nursing home and assisted living will be opening in the summer of 2008 with the remodel being completed in 2009. Community support has again played a crucial role in a $1.5 million capital campaign by the Foundation which changed its name to Hillsboro Medical Center Foundation to better promote its purpose and mission -- "to encourage and secure voluntary gifts and donations to support the mission of the Hillsboro Medical Center"