1943 - 1960
It was the early 1940s. Across two oceans wars were going on and as a part of the war effort, the United States Army purchased 640 square miles north of a quiet village called Richland in the state of Washington. The site would become the home of the secret, government-run Hanford portion of the Manhattan Project, and its workers would labor around the clock to help bring an end to those wars.
Prior to the work at the Hanford site, the Richland Village had a total population of 918. By December of 1944, its population had exploded to 11,760 and by March 1945, that number had grown to 15,401 including nearly 4,800 children. In addition, at its peak an estimated 50,000 people lived at the temporary quarters of Camp Hanford.
Emergency Room in 1943.
As "The Village" grew daily with people coming to work at Hanford, the government was responsible to meet the needs of these workers and their families: everything from housing to schools, barber shops to laundry services, entertainment to food, to medical needs ranging from emergencies to dentistry. And, because of its isolated location, the potentially hazardous operations taking place at Hanford, and small and already overburdened area hospitals, the need for a hospital in Richland was great. The first medical facility to serve those working at the Hanford Engineer Works was established in 1943 in an existing farmhouse at Hanford. In June 1943, the first aid equipment and staff were moved to one of the women’s barracks at Hanford where accommodations were provided for a 10-bed treatment area.
Plans for the medical facility began early in the wartime defense efforts; construction began in January 1944 and moved along quickly. The building of the hospital was a collaborative effort between the Army Corps of Engineers and DuPont, then the major contractor at the Hanford area. The original, one-story building was over 55,000 square feet and located on the site of the Corrado Medical Building. It was a traditional "army" facility, with a central hall and wings expanding off the hall.
In 1944, the personnel totals for the hospital included the superintendent, assistant superintendent, two doctors and a part-time surgeon, five nurses and a pharmacist. All medical services for the Village were expected to be met by this hospital force as well as providing employee physicals, dentistry and public health -- water quality, environmental health care and preventive care. Medical care was practically on an emergency only basis. The burgeoning population necessitated an increase in the staff as quickly as they could be procured. By July 1, 1945, the hospital employees totaled 117.
In addition to a lack of personnel when it opened, the hospital space itself proved inadequate to handle the medical needs of the new community even though the bed-to- population-ratio was over 5/1000 (higher than the national average due to unknown industrial needs at Hanford and the high percentage of dormitory housed workers). The new hospital had 91 rooms that could hold 115 patients. There was no room for outpatient care, dental care and other services so a Medical-Dental building was started near the hospital and two houses provided 20 isolation beds as needed.
And, before it was opened it was also clear that the maternity ward was inadequate with only one delivery room, six beds and a six bassinet nursery. Enlargement of the maternity wing began even before the hospital itself was opened and this addition was completed by the following September. Twenty-two bassinets and 30 cribs were added.
Emergency Room in 1943.
The pediatric and obstetric loads during the early months of operation were indeed high. Richland led the nation in birth rate in 1946 with 35 births per 1,000 compared to a national average of 20 births per 1,000. This high birth rate is attributed to the large number of employees being in the 20 to 30 age group and, as one report from the time states, "...the Security program of the plant dampened social activities, which perhaps served to encourage more pregnancy." The actual number of babies born was a military secret at the time; the numbers were not released to the public because of a concern that population experts from Germany and Japan would be given a clue to the size of the Hanford work force.
The hospital was a closed facility providing services only for Hanford workers, their families and other citizens within the government controlled boundaries of Richland. People from other communities or surrounding rural areas were not allowed to use the facility.
One of the hospital's first patients was Lt. Col. Harry R. Kadlec, Deputy Area Engineer and Chief of the Construction for the Army Corps of Engineers at Hanford and a key figure in the operation of the project. Col. Kadlec was said to have literally worked himself to death. He suffered a heart attack on July 2, 1944 and subsequently died at the hospital which was to bear his name. His was the first death in the new facility. Upon his death, flags at the Hanford area were lowered to half-mast and government workers were given time off to attend his services which were held in the old Richland High Auditorium. On July 10, 1944, the Richland Hospital was renamed Kadlec Hospital. During the first year, Kadlec Hospital served 3,153 patients.
In the early years it was difficult to obtain all of the essentials to equip the new hospital. There was no storage unit filled with supplies to fall back upon during the wartime crunch. The Auxiliary stepped in to help fill the gap, sewing and repairing linens and creating other items used in the hospital.
A Hospital with Community Roots
The first Kadlec Hospital was a one story building, pictured in the middle with the lighter roof. In the foreground is the medical professional building. In the background, on the left is the original Christ the King Catholic Church and on the right, the original Central United Protestant Church. The churches are surrounded by housing, much of which is still in use today. The hospital provided services for only Hanford workers, their families and other citizens within the controlled boundaries of Richland.
In the 1950s, the hospital underwent a major change, going from being owned by the United States government to being operated by the Methodist Church and it was renamed Kadlec Methodist Hospital.
Kadlec remains the only hospital in the state of Washington and only one of few in the country which began as a government medical facility and was turned back to the citizens to be operated as a not-for-profit institution.
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