Monday, April 30, 2012

TOP STORY >> 50 years after start, hospital still strong

Leader staff writer

North Metro Medical Center’s new slogan is “50 years, 350 people proud,” CEO Jay Quebedeaux told the crowd gathered Thursday to celebrate the hospital’s 50th anniversary.

The hospital, once city-owned but now owned by Allegiance Health Management of Louisiana, opened its doors on Jan. 24, 1962, with 30 beds and 15 bassinets, according to a proclamation read by Mayor Gary Fletcher.

Quebedeaux said, “We tried to sum up what we felt the hospital was about and what we thought our people were about. We’ve been here for 50 years and our staff is extremely dedicated to taking care of people and extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished over the 50 years.

We look to be here for a long time. The staff really goes the extra mile to take care of Jacksonville and Cabot people. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s not every day a hospital turns 50 years, and we’re extremely proud to be here. I want to thank all the employees. I feel like we have the most dedicated staff out there and people have really worked to not only to get this sale done, but to also really ensure our future and to really take care of our patients. It’s only because of you guys we’ve been here 50 years. We certainly won’t make another 50 without you,” he said.

He also thanked the community and auxiliary for their support.

“It’s not very often you get a community hospital that a town will support and keep around for 50 years, so it’s a great honor to have that. (The auxiliary is) a huge part of what we do here. They’re a huge part of our customer service, and I don’t think we’d have been here 50 years without those guys,” Quebedeaux said before passing the podium to speakers Mike Wilson, Dr. Paul Valentin-Stone and Joan Zumwalt.

Wilson, chairman of the board that governs the nonprofit hospital, also thanked the employees and auxiliary forces.

“You all are the ones who make this hospital work. Patients and the community are very well aware that the good things that happen here are a result of your work. It’s not lost on any of us, particularly those of us who have been patients here like me for a time or two,” he said.

Wilson also acknowledged the gift of the property that was donated to the city by Raymond Rebsamen for the hospital, which bore his name until a few years ago.

Rebsamen is deceased. His son, one of his two children, passed away recently, Wilson said.

The board invited Rebsamen’s daughter to attend the ceremony, but she was recently hospitalized and couldn’t make it, Wilson said.

Wilson said she and her daughter wished everyone well.

He said he talked to Rebsamen’s son a few years ago.

“He and his sister were in agreement with us to change the name of the hospital in order to make it more competitive with our friends and neighbors, White County, Springhill, St. Vincent’s in Sherwood. They understood that we had to make changes in order to be more competitive in this community,” Wilson said.

Valentin-Stone, one of the longest-practicing physicians still on staff at North Metro, said he came to Jacksonville in 1983 with the Air Force. After a two-year tour in 1985, he had to decide whether to return to Puerto Rico or stay here.

He said it was the members of this community that convinced him to stay. “They meant the most to me. They convinced me to stay, and it wasn’t a very hard decision. I couldn’t have asked for a better place. This community has welcomed me and my family with open arms. My grandson was born here. I was a patient here as well once,” he said.

“My son had surgery here. We are part of this family known as Rebsamen and North Metro, a wonderful place to receive your medical care. I hear that every day in my office. Patients like the fact that it is a small institution. They’re referred to as patients, not numbers. They feel that the care is just as good as anywhere else in the state and I second that.”

Joan Zumwalt organized the hospital’s auxiliary in 1965. She recalled the good old days.

“The candy stripers are not with us anymore, but we had fun organizing the candy stripers, who were the young teenage girls who helped us after school and in the summertime. We had fundraisers to have money to buy our uniforms, our jackets and shoes. Mostly I remember the spaghetti suppers and style shows. We didn’t have the gentleman either,” she said, as she thanks one male auxiliary member seated in the front row at the ceremony.

Zumwalt said her youngest daughter was born at the hospital. “I feel very close to this institution,” she said.

State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) also read a statement at the ceremony.

He said, “My dad was living in Sheridan a few years ago and we were blessed enough to be able to come up here. (The hospital did) a wonderful job of giving us a little rest and of giving him the care he needed as an Alzheimer’s patient. So, I’m very thankful for this facility.

“About five years ago I received a call. A consultant was hired. They asked us about 100 questions and to give them honest feedback. I’m proud to say today a lot of those things were listened to and there were a few changes made along the way. It’s made it a great institution. It truly is a landmark in Jacksonville, Ark., to have this facility here.”

Williams read, “The physicians, staff and volunteers can take pride in its phenomenal growth, new cutting-edge procedures and treatments, latest technology, expansions and renovations of facilities that have established it as one of the best medical centers in the state. In addition to utilizing state-of-the-art equipment in the sleep center, laboratory and medical imaging departments, North Metro Medical Center recently opened new surgical and medical inpatient units and implemented the newest digital mammogram technology in order to better serve patients with their individual needs. The members of the Arkansas Senate wish to join Sen. Eddie Joe Williams in congratulating North Metro Medical Center on its 50th anniversary of service as a vital member of the Jacksonville community and well deserved reputation for excellence in the health care field.”

The mayor read a proclamation declaring Thursday as North Metro Medical Center Day, which included highlights of the hospital’s past 50 years.