By Paul Struck, Editor
(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of weekly articles detailing the history and on-going changes at Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital in Cherokee as it transitions into the future of regional health care with an enhanced identity and a compelling new image.)
As early as 1896, the growing railroad community of Cherokee felt an urgent need for a hospital for the use of its doctors and increasing volume of patients from a thriving population.
By the year 1916, the cornerstone of Sioux Valley Hospital was laid and the original hospital built on the northeast corner of what is now North First Street and Sioux Valley Drive.
The "old" hospital, patterned after others of the era, served Cherokee well until a new addition and renovation in 1951 increased bed capacity from 29 to 65. Along with this, came new equipment and advancing "sick care" treatments gleaned from the health care industry.
In 1961, as Cherokee continued to grow and prosper, a rising demand for increased health care technology cried out as in-patient bed occupancy continued to soar. A decision was then made to construct an additional two-story hospital building to the east of the existing facility, connected with an indoor passageway. This large project was completed in 1965. However, with the introduction of Medicare in that same year, a third floor was constructed in 1967 to handle Cherokee County's increased demand for health care and its latest technological advances.
Again, SVMH served the region well for another 30 years, with more doctors, nurses and equipment steadily added to better treat the burgeoning patient load.
"Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital is what it is today because past administrations, board members and medical staff had the vision and initiative to keep the hospital in step with the ever-changing climate in health care and its technology", said SVMH CEO John Comstock, now in his ninth year at the hospital's helm.
Since his arrival in Cherokee, Comstock and the SVMH Board of Directors have been the guiding forces behind construction of The Beck, an independent senior living complex; the Wellness Center; renovation, expansion and new construction for various departments, including Radiology, Specialty Clinics, Obstetrics, Laboratory, 3rd Floor Nursing, Maintenance and the cafeteria; and the addition of new equipment utilizing the latest in health care technology
In 1996, the $1.3 million True Medical Building opened to provide space for several physicians, including Sioux Valley Medical Associates, Shinnerl Surgical Services, and P.J. Harrison MD, PC. The convenient, single-story medical clinic contains more than 12,000 square feet of exam rooms, offices, and waiting area, all serviced with ample parking areas. Sioux Valley Medical Associates later expanded into three other surrounding communitiesÖHolstein in 1996, Marcus in 2000 and Aurelia in 2001.
In 1999, The Beck opened its doors and met the growing need for a housing complex providing amenities for seniors who would like to live an independent life, minus the responsibilities of upkeep for a home. The Beck offers 32 apartments.
In 2002, the SVMH Wellness Center opened its doors to the community after extensive planning and fund-raising. The popular Wellness Center emphasizes the importance of health and wellness and encourages area residents to stay active, all of which contributes to better health for all ages. The facility is utilized and enjoyed by all for its swimming pool, walking/jogging track, exercise areas, gymnasium, racquetball courts, and the latest in high-tech workout equipment. In addition, the facility is staffed with knowledgeable "experts" in exercise and physical training.
Besides new, expanded and enhanced facilities making the SVMH Campus a comprehensive and multi-dimensional regional health care facility, the hospital is steadily adding new equipment and technology with more than $928,000 invested in the last year alone. This includes three new boilers, a new surgery table, a new nurse's station on 3rd floor, an in-house pharmacy computer system, two new anesthesia pumps, a lymphedema pump for the Physical Medicine department, a Mammotome Breast Biopsy system and updates to the fire alarm system to name a few.
Also, there are now 23 specialty doctors coming regularly to Cherokee in the greatly expanded Specialty Clinic Department. The SVMH Specialty Clinic saves the residents of Cherokee a significant amount of time and money when faced with seeing a specialist in another town.
As history has shown, especially in the last 10 years, Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital continues to re-examine and renew itself in order to remain timely and true to its mission of providing comprehensive, quality health care services throughout the area.
The current administration and medical staff vow to continue keeping in step with the ever-changing environment of health care, to the direct benefit of all area residents.