A non-profit community leader with a mission to enhance
local Healthcare and Education.
The MHA Foundation was born when Payson Regional Medical Center became a for-profit entity instead of a community hospital in August 1997 and The PRMC Foundation, the PRMC Board of Directors and the PRMC Auxiliary merged into a single, non-profit organization.
To understand how a community without even a doctor built a hospital, one must go back to 1954.
The thought, we need a doctor for our babies, began a monumental five-year effort that gave birth to a hospital in Payson, Arizona. A semi-retired doctor had served the community in 1951, but was gone by 1954. If one of the 1,000 people who lived in Payson, Pine, Strawberry or Star Valley needed a doctor there were two choices of bumpy roads. The ninety miles between Payson and the Valley of the Sun was half a day’s journey. The seventy-two-mile drive to the nearest hospital in Cottonwood took at least two and a half hours and was a tiring ride over mostly unpaved roads. “On the road to Cottonwood” graced many birth certificates in the community.
Well Baby Clinic
Members of the Payson Junior Womans* Club including, Pat Cline, Hazel Owens, Doris Taylor, Leta Jean Haught, Toots Gist, Mary Bishop, Nora Surrett, Mary Holder and Gladys Meredith decided that three years was quite long enough for Payson to have been without a doctor. According to long-time resident Pat Cline, it was Gladys Meredith who said, “What we really need is a well-baby clinic, and a clinic where people can get patched up.” The women decided they would build one. The twenty-one members raised $414 in the first six months. That initial spoken thought was also attributed to Hazel Owens, whose daughter was seriously injured in a fall from a car, and was saved by pharmacist Don Manthe. He often performed emergency medical services under the telephone supervision of a physician.
“We had all these little kids, and Don Manthe was the town pharmacist, the baby doctor and everything else,” long-time Rim Country resident Pat Cline said. Patients in dire need of care felt the vibration of former military pilot Steve Hathaway’s Voltaire Vibrator as the plane taxied down Aero Drive for the flight to Cottonwood.
A Grassroots Efforts
Community support was quick to fan the spark begun by the young mothers. With the blessing of the Juniors, a board of community leaders formed the non-profit Payson Clinic, Incorporated (PCI) to organize the effort. Steve Hathaway served as president and Don Manthe as treasurer. The Juniors turned over the money they had collected so far through bake sales, luncheons, dances and theatrical productions to PCI and fund-raising efforts continued. A letter writing campaign asking prominent Arizonans to lend their names to the hospital letterhead garnered positive responses from Senator Barry Goldwater (R), Judge Sam Lazovich and others.
Soon, the Rim Country would be seen as a destination in the cool mountains for fishing, hunting and relaxation. Not only was blacktopping the Beeline in the works, so were improvements to the short route from Flagstaff to Pine, the Bush Highway and the Apache Trail. With road improvements would come tourists. Some tourists would naturally become residents, thus the need for more buildings and services and, with this influx of people and commerce; a doctor and nurses are necessities.
Walter Surrett’s column in the first edition of the Payson Roundup Newspaper, on March 2, 1956, apprised residents of the needs and news of the clinic. By the end of that month, the thermometer erected on Main Street showed $5,000 due to several large donations. Arizona school children also gave to the hospital fund through in the “Pennies for Payson” campaign.
Impressed by the fact that citizens of the rural community raised $12,000 for the clinic and held additional assets including a donation of land valued at $5,600, Jim Patrick, President of Valley National Bank in Phoenix funded their cause with a $20,000 loan. PCI planned for payments to come from donations for the first two years of the ten-year loan, but hoped the clinic would be self-supporting after that time so that the loan could be repaid early.
The first shovels broke ground on July 17, 1956, and just after Thanksgiving members of the Payson Junior Womans Club washed the windows of the clinic born of their imagination and determination. There was no groundbreaking ceremony, but the board planned for an open house celebration.
The clinic was given a second hand ambulance that focused on local service, only making the trip to Phoenix or Cottonwood in extreme emergencies. While no one was denied ambulance service, the requested fees were $5 or 25 cents per mile, whichever sum was greater.
Office Visits: $3.00
The clinic opened on Wednesday and Saturdays with part-time doctors who flew in from the Valley while the community actively sought a full-time physician.
The arrival of Dr. David B. Gilbert now finished with his six month internship at Good Samaritan Hospital, along with his wife Martha and sons Doug and Jeff on Saturday, June 28, 1957 was a momentous day in Payson. He was “not hardly unpacked” when Malcolm Pyle arrived at the clinic with his cow dog. She had a spaying wound, so with cowboys holding four feet, a tail and a nose, Doctor Gilbert treated his first patient. The rural clinic officially on July 1 with Nellie Abt, R.N. as Dr. Gilbert’s chief nurse. The cost of an office visit was $3.
The Payson Clinic, staff, volunteers and first baby were launched briefly into the American limelight upon the publication of the Ladies Home Journal article, “No Longer the Town Without a Doctor” by Margaret Hickey in January 1958.
June of 1960 saw the formalization of the Payson Clinic Auxiliary. The volunteers had pale pink uniform blouses and dyed-to-match caps with different letters sewn on for hours served. Dues in 1960 were 25 cents a month, payable monthly or yearly and there were still no bylaws, just “rules on absenteeism.”
There is no doubt the Pink Ladies brought smiles to the faces of the 280 patients who stayed at the hospital over the course of 1960. “Payson” graced the place of birth line on fifteen birth certificates, and an incubator was purchased for obstetrics. There were 599 out-patients who entered the hospital for services such as X-rays and blood work in the laboratory, as well as eye and dental exams. The American Hospital Association recognized the hospital’s efforts in improving community health with a certificate.
Expanding Health Care
The next three decades were all about growth.A $150,000 hospital renovation campaign was launched in November 27, 1969. “Mile of Dimes” was the most successful annual Auxiliary campaign for arguably twenty years beginning in 1971. It was the brainchild of one of the male Auxiliary volunteers whose name, unfortunately, is lost to memory. It was envisioned on the premise that if seventeen dimes could be stacked on their circumference they would equal about one foot. Multiply those dimes by the 5,280 feet in a mile and the resultant figure is $8,976—a worthy fund raising goal for any organization. Although that first annual campaign during Labor Day Weekend was $7,346.70 short of the mile mark, figures from the 25th anniversary report indicate that another $26,074.79 was collected through 1984 bringing the total Mile of Dimes to just about three.
Payson’s big news in 1973 was its incorporation as a town.
By April of 1974 hospital renovations were complete with the assistance of $13,166.55 from community pockets. The fire alarm system had been improved, the halls had been widened and the electrical system replaced. An admissions desk, drug room and nurses station were added.
“These improvements would have been impossible without the support and assistance of citizens of our area, the board of directors, the Hospital Auxiliary and many hours of hard work on the part of employees of the hospital,” Lance Gillham, hospital administrator said.
Heiress Nan Pyle decided to donate her ranch to the hospital in memory of her late husband Lewis R. Pyle. The $100,000 proceeds from the sale of the ranch kept the hospital solvent.
Again the hospital required major renovation and expansion to serve a population that had grown to approximately 5,000 souls in the mid to late 1970s. Exactly how many of those people contributed to the nearly $600,000 that was raised to grow the facility to forty-four beds with a two suite operating theater, and a full complement of ancillary services that attracted more physicians to the area is uncharted, but certainly ,many business owners and residents opened their wallets as they were able.
The Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital
On September 9, 1978, the Payson Hospital was dedicated and renamed the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital. Members of the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital Auxiliary played hostess at the happy occasion.
The Auxiliary’s twenty-one members in 1977-78 voted to purchase a typewriter, a blood pressure monitor, and a diathermy machine for the hospital, as well as furnish the chapel. The Almost New Shop existed in a shed behind the hospital. Once the construction on the hospital was completed the Auxiliary was able to hold their monthly meetings in the dining room.
In 1983 community generosity allowed the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital Auxiliary (grown in the past year under the leadership of Auxiliary president Mary Lou Lopez from 40 to 142 members) to donate equipment valued at a whopping $22,152.81 to the hospital: three electric thermometers, four electric typewriters for admitting and medical records, four IV stands, a neonatal respirator, an intensive care unit monitor, and $6,000 toward an $8,500 cautery unit for surgery and ER use.
The Payson Regional Medical Center
On March 23, 1993 the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital became, by vote of the board and in light of the board plans for an upgrade to a level three trauma center and upgrades of the birthing and diagnostic centers, the Payson Regional Medical Center, Inc. The Rim Country Health Care Foundation changed their focus from construction to be the major fundraising entity for PRMC.
On November 27, board members with shovels dug symbolically into the earth for a new 57,000 square foot wing that expanded the emergency and out-patient care unit, doubled the size of the surgical suite, provided a larger and better equipped laboratory, doubled the size of the radiology diagnostic and treatment center, added a post-operative recovery room and an isolation room, and added four beds to the pediatric unit. The wing was funded through the sale of municipal bonds and the inevitable private contributions. A few part time jobs and twenty full time positions were created with the completion of the wing.
The PRMC Foundation targeted corporations for funds to purchase new equipment, property, furnishings, and to pay specialists. The Cornerstone Club was a locally focused effort: For $1,000 the donor’s name is placed on a bronze plaque in front of the new addition.
The community supported Almost New Shop’s revenue was $80,000 in 1993. Sales in the hospital gift stores also filled Auxiliary coffers enabling a $120,000 contribution to PRMC for the purchase of a surgical saw, treadmill and portable X-ray machine.
The PRMC Foundation raised $218,000 for hospital equipment in 1996, then, pledged $129,000 for equipment in 1997.
“The community deserves a pat on the back,” Foundation Administrative Assistant Amy Cobb told Katy Whitehouse for her article “Foundation, budget process aid hospital” article in the Payson Roundup’s 1997 Progress Edition. “This is an impressive amount of money to be raised. If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t have these services.”
Read the full story:
* “Fifty-five years of Health in the Rim Country and the Mogollon Health Alliance”
*Womans is spelled the way school teacher Julia Randall, a founding member of the club, maintained was grammatically correct.
* The black and white photographs on this page, and the pages of the Almost New Shop, La Boutique Gift Shop and Programs are provided courtesy the Payson Roundup Newspaper
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308 East Aero Drive
Payson, Arizona 85541