Boone County, Arkansas was created on April 9, 1869 and the new town of Harrison began growing up in the 1860s. By 1920, the need for a good public hospital had long been more and more evident. The practice of medicine was vastly different before there was a local hospital. Notwithstanding the apparent serious need In Boone County, finances for such a facility were not forthcoming.
In early June of 1924, a facility known as the "Harrison-Harvey Hospital" opened for business in Harrison. It was seen as a major milestone in the town's progress. Mrs. W.G. Harvey was in charge of operating the hospital. Just over a year later, she came to the conclusion that in order to keep the hospital open, the local physicians would have to come up with a plan to run it themselves in cooperation with the city. Apparently, that did not work. The hospital eventually closed.
More than 5 years later, on March 18, 1930, an election was held in the city of Harrison to build a city hospital. The local doctors at the time proposed to equip the hospital themselves with the assistance of civic clubs, churches and others. The project failed, but the need still persisted. Doctors would have to continue to provide patient care rooms in their offices or clinics and to take many seriously ill patients by automobile to hospitals. According to Dr. H.V. Kirby, patients were sometimes operated on, sent home and visited by the physician at home. Many times the physicians received little pay for their services. Some of them did not routinely send bills but depended on those who would pay to do so without prompting. There is no way to measure how much suffering or how many deaths could have been prevented if the facility had been constructed in 1930. But times were hard, money was scarce, and taxes were understandably unpopular.
In 1935, there was another hospital proposal on the table. The Chamber of Commerce endorsed the plan saying that the community "…is in dire need of local hospital facilities due to the fact that there now is no adequate institution of this nature nearer than 100 miles…". The proposal again failed and in 1935, Dr. J.G. Gladden and Dr. D.L. Owens opened their own Harrison Clinic to serve in place of a hospital. It had three doctors and a dentists' office, an operating room and bed space for about a dozen patients. In 1937 an x-ray unit was installed. Still a third attempt by the Mayor to establish a hospital in 1938 was tried, but the battle for an adequate, permanent hospital was not yet won.
Dr. J.J. Johnson owned 6 ½ acres and left it to his son who sold it to the City of Harrison, provided it was used for noncommercial purposes. By 1946, physicians were back from the war and patients were being transported out of town by ambulances provided by the undertakers.
Boone County Judge, Aubrey Hickenbottom, had a grandchild born in one of the clinics at the time and realized the inadequacy of the facilities available here. The time seemed right. He worked diligently to help pass the needed bond issue. It supplied matching money to build the hospital under the Hill-Burton Act. The county obtained the property known as Johnson Park.
The Boone County Hospital was completed in December 1950 and opened up ahead of schedule to allow surgeons to perform an emergency operation on a local attorney, J. Lloyd Shouse, the hospital's first patient. The hospital served Boone County and the surrounding five county areas of about 60,000 people. Today, our hospital serves and meets the healthcare needs of over seven counties with a service population of about 80,000.
With the continued growth of the area and the frequent need for expansion, it became clear that organized planning for the future was necessary. More than 36 years went by with additions and changes, and in 1986, the Boone County Hospital changed its name to North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. The Hospital Board of Governors adopted the new name to take full advantage of the hospital's regional status and to publicize the facility's sophisticated equipment and multitude of services not generally associated with a County Hospital.
North Arkansas Regional Medical Center exists today because of the dedication and desire of committed community leaders and physicians who experienced firsthand what the absence of a hospital meant to their families and community and the compelling need for us to have one. Because of Judge Hickenbottom's relentless desire to build a hospital and Dr. J.G. Gladden's primary financial support, we are here today. Judge Hickenbottom's concern for his own grandchild's health, motivated him to work energetically to have the bond issue passed in order to build a local hospital. He not only saw it as a need for his own family and this community but for many generations to come.
More than 90 years have passed since the idea of a local hospital was brought to the community's attention, but the needs then are still the needs we have present-today.
Judge Aubrey Hickenbottom's passion, back in 1946, for a local hospital along with all those who came before him still resonates with our community today. North Arkansas Regional Medical Center is continually changing and growing each and every day to meet the needs of our patients. We at NARMC always seek to provide "The Best in Care -Close to Home" for all of our community and surrounding areas.
We count it a privilege and honor to serve this community. We want to be a hospital that you can trust and know and that your dollars do make a difference in the lives of all of our patients here at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. We are here for YOU and want to be here for the next generation.
Some, historical information for the above was compiled from the History of Boone County, Arkansas, by Roger V. Logan, Jr.,1998 and from other sources.