50-year-old hospital honors the vision of its founders

By Lynn R. Parks

In 1946, Allen “Skip” Hastings, a member of the Seaford Lions Club, began discussing with fellow Lions the prospect of building a hospital in the city. The club endorsed the idea and consulted with doctors, who joined together to form the Sussex County Medical Association. As one of its first acts of business, the association passed a resolution recognizing the need for a hospital. Other service clubs endorsed the idea as a memorial to area people who had served in World War II. Veterans’ organizations, firemen’s groups, fraternal orders and civic groups were convinced to support the project. After an extensive fund-raising effort, which raised close to $400,000, the newly-formed hospital board proceeded with plans to build a hospital on the former LeCates farm east of town. Nanticoke Memorial Hospital opened its doors on January 28, 1952. In its first two days, eight patients were admitted and three major operations were performed. On Monday, Nanticoke Health Services celebrated the 50th anniversary of the completion of the hospital, which now admits an average of 20 patients a day and in 2000, had 3,800 surgical patients. The numbers may have changed. But, said hospital board chairman Dr. Martin Cosgrove, that spirit that inspired the founders of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital exists today. “We all walk in the footsteps of our forefathers,” he said. “Support of this hospital is a community tradition that predates the bricks and mortar.” Cosgrove also helped with the unveiling of over 100 plaques, newly polished, that have been placed throughout the hospital over the years to commemorate donations and that, during the most recent renovation phase, were removed. “They have been refurbished and renovated, and will be placed in a spot of honor in the hall off the rotunda,” Cosgrove said. An explanation that will be posted in the hallway reads, “The communities served by Nanticoke Health Services gratefully recognize the spirit of generosity which enabled our past and which inspires our future.” State Rep. Tina Fallon also spoke during the ceremony. “The economy of our city is very good because of this hospital,” she said. “The fact that you are here spurs people to study the disciplines you use here.” City councilman Larry Miller said that he could personally attest to the caring and generosity of the hospital staff following the recent death of a good friend. “You give the best care possible,” he said. “When I walked down the halls, staff smiled and politely greeted me. Those smiles speak well of the management here.”

Hospital administrator Ed Hancock told the crowd of about 100 people that the hospital is planning to spend over $50 million on construction projects in the next five years. He unveiled an architect’s drawing of the cancer care center, construction of which got under way just last week. The center, overlooking the Nanticoke River, is going up in the parking lot of the Professional Building, west of the hospital. When the center is complete, expected in December, the Professional Building will be demolished and on its site will be built a two-level parking garage, expected to be complete in April. Total cost for the project is $8 million. Construction on the 22,000-square foot women’s health center at the Mears Campus, across from the post office, is expected to get under way in March and be complete in December. Cost for the center, which will house offices for obstetricians/gynecologists, a nurse practitioner and midwives as well as a diagnostic imaging center, will be $4 million. Planned to start next January is expansion of the emergency room, which will about double its size to include more examination rooms, additional waiting room space, more ambulance bays and reconfiguration of the ambulance entrance. The expansion will probably take over the Community Room, Hancock said, in which the 50th-anniversary celebration was held Monday. The hospital’s five-year plan includes construction of a second five-story tower, on top of the intensive care unit and adjacent to the current tower, to allow more space for inpatient rooms. The third floor would be for general medical patients and the fourth floor for obstetrics. Use of the fifth floor has not yet been defined. Possible starting date for that construction is 2004. Reed Morris, hospital chaplain, offered the invocation for the ceremony. He offered thanks for the people who worked to establish the hospital and asked for guidance in the future. “As we pause to reflect upon those who began the hospital, we admire their dedication and their devotion to community health,” he said. “We offer thanks to those who wanted to have a better place in which to heal. We admire them, and we aspire to that kind of devotion. “And we pray that the torch that they had be passed on to this generation so that the 21st century is a continuation of that level of service.”

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