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Nostalgic post about old hospital sends folks down memory lane

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These days, on the northeast end of town sits the new Baptist hospital built, in part, with taxpayer funds.

BMH-Crittenden opened in 2018, ending a nearly fiveyear period where the county had no hospital of its own.

But longtime residents will surely recall that from 1951 to 2014, the county was served by Crittenden Memorial Hospital (later renamed Crittenden Regional Hospital).

Last Friday, the City of West Memphis marked the 70th anniversary of the hospital’s opening with a “Flashback Friday” photo on its Facebook page, noting some interesting facts about the facility.

“The $1.2 million structure was well equipped and well-staffed,” said the post.

“It originally had 100 beds, three operating rooms, two obstetrical departments, waiting rooms, kitchen, administrative offices, laundry room, offices for 30 doctors, private lounge for nurses with showers and lockers, clinical lab, xray lab, and a drug store. It was considered as one of the most modern, up-todate hospitals in the tristate region.”

The post also cited a September 1951 article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that described the new facility, saying the hospital stood “as an ultramodern institution and an example of the Mid-South’s new and expanding adventure into health care.” Crittenden Memorial Hospital went on to serve the residents of West Memphis for more than 60 years before closing in 2014, due to a combination of mounting overhead, dwindling revenues and some controversial management and financial choices that resulted in a number of lawsuits.

A massive effort was launched to save the hospital but ultimately a fire at the facility and continued finanacial troubles doomed the hospital and it was shuttered. The building eventually found new life as a women’s rehabilitation and minimum security detention center for the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections, while the adjacent Schoettle Medical Center bacam the new home of Critttenden Youth Theatre and DeltaARTS.

The post was well-received by the public and generated hundreds of views and dozens of shares. Several of the city’s Facebook followers weighed in with memories of the old hospital.

“That hospital had a special place in the lives of the West Memphis citizens and the rest of Crittenden County,” said Sarah Miles.” A lot of good doctors and nurses came through those doors during those 60 years.”

Sandy Snyder said, “It was the doctors we had back then that made this a good hospital. We had some of the best.”

“My three kids were born there,” said Alma King.

“By Dr. Smith. Brings back memories.”

As one might expect, such an important facility served not only the sick and injured of the community but also employed many of them as well.

“My mom Juanita Smith was an ER LPN nurse there in the early 70s,” said Teri Jones. “Not sure for how long, but after that she went to Dr. Kennedy, the eye doctor down the road from the hospital. My mom helped him with in the office and all eye surgeries until her death in 1985.”

Rebecca Lawson said, “I worked there in the ‘90s and then again in again in 2004.”

“My mother retired from there — LPN,” said Creswell Brown Frances Cox “I miss it every day,” said Frances Cox. “I moved on but never felt the same as I

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Photo courtesy of the City of West Memphis HOSPITAL (cont.)

did at this hospital.”

Betty Thompson agreed.

“I miss the wonderful people,” she said. “Couldn’t ask for a better group.”

Angela Walls-Carthron threw in a bit of trivia.

“My baby girl who is now 39 was born there in 1982,” she said. “She was also the person who the last surgery was performed on before closing in 2014.”

“The staff at CMH saved my mother's life 9 years ago,” said Diane Sable. “I will always be grateful to them.”

While the county does have the new hospital, many lamented the loss of Crittenden Regional. Carla Wasiw offered these final thoughts: “I was born there in 1962,” she said. “Sad that instead of being investigated and monies accounted for and to invest in fixing our hospital up and keeping our doctors in Crittenden County, they let everything fall through the cracks and all our best doctors left or retired, and now to see a decent doctor you have to travel to other end of Memphis, Germantown, Cordova, Bartlett, Southhaven and further in opposite direction to Little Rock. Sad way to end what used to be a dependable hospital.”

“This is where I was born in 1956,” said Karen Lynn Waddell. “I’m thankful for a safe delivery on that day and I’m thankful my life has been a great one for 65 years, still here in West Memphis. God has blessed me tremendously.”

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