Monadnock Community Hospital’s years of progress: 1971 to 1991

By MELISSA FRENCH

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-25-2023 9:02 AM

Fourth of a series of articles leading up to Monadnock Community Hospital’s 100th anniversary celebration June 3. See Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

The 1970s saw continued growth at the hospital. In 1974, the medical team reached 29 members, with new doctors tending toward specialty practices, including a new birthing center. In 1974, MCH was the second hospital in the country to offer water births. In 1977, MCH elected its first female board president, Dorothy Peterson, who served on the board of trustees from 1975 to 1980.

In April 1979, the Catherine Hodgen Memorial addition cost $900,000 ($3,627,964.88 adjusted). This addition included a new ambulance entrance, expansion in the emergency department, new facilities for outpatient surgery, updated admissions office, new record room, double-size conference room, extra X-ray storage space, enlarged areas for both physical and respiratory therapy and a new doctors’ office building.

In the 1980s, the hospital auxiliaries held fundraisers such as Christmas fairs, bake sales, open houses, fashion shows and annual regattas. They also held pancake breakfasts, a gay ’90s gala, barbershop quartets and jazz bands. In July 1983, the first regatta was held on Contoocook Lake. It involved sailboat, canoe and creative craft races, sack races, a tug-of-war competition and water balloon tossing.

In 1984, the Friends of the Hospital donated a mammography unit, and New England Business Services Inc. funded the $10,000 purchase of an IBM personal computer. An average of $25,000 ($67,996.24 adjusted) was donated during this decade.

The average length of stay at MCH decreased from 4.7 days in 1980 to 4 1/2 in 1981. The national average was seven days for hospitals the size of MCH. The average total cost per stay at MCH was well below average at that time.

There were many advances in technology in the 1980s. In 1982, Dr. Theodore Renna performed the first laser eye surgery at MCH. Previously, patients had to travel to Boston for this procedure. In June 1983, MCH developed an infant car seat rental program, responding to the New Hampshire Child Passenger Safety Law.

In 1984, the first medical flight from MCH took place, in partnership with UMass Medical Center in Worcester. In 1989, MCH purchased its first CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan machine and added on a nuclear medicine room, and performed its first laparoscopic surgery. In 1989, MCH opened a hospice room, becoming one of the first hospitals in New Hampshire to designate room specifically for hospice care.

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In 1989, fundraising began for another expansion. The hospital incurred long-term debt for the first time in its history. The expansion was funded with $4.5 million ($9,972,555.07 adjuste*) borrowed dollars, $2 million from donations from the community ($4,432,246.70 adjusted) and $1.9 million was from the depreciation reserve fund ($4,210,634.36 adjusted), and $300,000 ($664,837.00 adjusted) was interest earned by bond money before it was spent. The expansion increased square footage by 50,000 square feet. The new wing doubled the hospital’s size and included three operating rooms and adjacent outpatient rooms, as well as a preoperative and postoperative rooms. Today, this new wing is known as the Medical Arts Building.

Monadnock Community Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital offering primary care, medical and surgical care, obstetrics, pediatrics and behavioral health services. In addition, outpatient services are available, including a primary care network, orthopaedics, cardiology, cardiac and physical rehabilitation services, 24-hour emergency care, oncology, occupational health, a fully equipped laboratory and a radiology department. 

Melissa French is the marketing specialist for Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough.

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