1943-1955 — The Early Years

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 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 Hanford build-up, the Richland Village had a population of less than 1,000. By December 1944, its population had exploded to 11,760 and by March 1945, that number had grown to 15,401, including 4,800 children. In addition, an estimated 50,000 people lived, at its peak, in temporary quarters at Camp Hanford.

The government was responsible to meet the needs of these workers and their families including medical care ranging from emergencies to dentistry. Because of its isolated location and potentially hazardous operations, the need for a hospital was even greater. The first medical facility was established in an existing farmhouse at Hanford. In June 1943, the first aid equipment and staff were moved to one of the women’s barracks creating a 10-bed treatment area.

Construction of a medical facility began in January 1944 and opened seven months later. The one-story, 55,000-square feet building was 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.

The 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 built and two houses provided 20 isolation beds. 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).

Emergency Room in 1943

When it opened, the personnel consisted of the superintendent, assistant superintendent, two doctors and a part-time surgeon, five nurses and a pharmacist. All medical services were expected to be met by this force including employee physicals, dentistry and public health -- water quality, environmental health and preventive care. Medical care was practically on an emergency-only basis. The burgeoning population necessitated an increase in the staff quickly; by July 1945, the hospital employees totaled 117.

Enlargement of the maternity wing (originally one delivery room, six beds and six bassinets) began even before the hospital opened, adding 22 bassinets and 30 cribs. Richland led the nation 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 because of a concern that Germany and Japan would be given a clue to the size of the Hanford workforce.

The hospital was a closed facility providing services only for Hanford workers, their families and other citizens within the government-controlled boundaries of Richland. During the first year, it served 3,153 patients.

Emergency Room in 1943

One of its 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 worked himself to death, suffering a heart attack on July 2, 1944 and subsequently died at the hospital -- the first death in the new facility. On July 10, 1944, the Richland Hospital was renamed Kadlec Hospital.

In the early years, it was difficult to obtain all of the essentials to equip the hospital. The Auxiliary stepped in to help, sewing and repairing linens and creating other items used in the hospital.