60 years of Barton Health: 1960s groundbreaking, evolution | TahoeDailyTribune.com

60 years of Barton Health: 1960s groundbreaking, evolution

Dr. Clint Purvance, Barton president/CEO
In 1962, construction officials join Alva Barton (left) and Faye Ledbetter (right) for official groundbreaking.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Sixty years ago, the community’s dream of a local, Tahoe-based hospital became reality. Barton Health has assembled a collection of articles to commemorate 60 years of quality and compassionate health care for our community and its visitors. Beginning with the 1950s, an article outlining the events of each decade will be published monthly, culminating with the 2020s on Barton’s official 60th anniversary in November.

Follow along this historical journey each month and learn more at BartonHealth.org/History

1960’s: Barton Memorial Hospital’s Groundbreaking and Purposeful Evolution 

As we reflect back on Barton’s 60-year history, the 1960s, which encompasses Barton’s grand opening, marks a time of progression and purposeful improvement.

The 1960s were an exciting time at Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Airport, which opened in 1959, made access easier. And with the 1960 Winter Olympics showcase, tourism began to grow. As the region grew to support its seasonal visitors, and more people relocated to Tahoe, a community hospital became vital.

With an estimated cost of $1 million, and to qualify for federal and state funding, the community had just four months to raise over $400,000 ($4 million today). This unifying campaign rallied the community and they met their goal the day before the deadline. It was time to break ground for Barton Memorial Hospital. 

The design for the 23,000 sq foot building showcased a mountain aesthetic in none other than the shape of a snowflake, incorporating heavy timber, stone, and glass — elements that can be seen in the hospital today. A central area for nurses made the snowflake design functional, where the nurse stations situated in the center of each wing ensured a nurse was just 20 steps from a patient at all times.

On Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963, Barton Memorial Hospital opened for business. The 38-bed acute care hospital consisted of 26 medical/surgical beds, six private rooms, and four pediatric rooms. A maternity area and nursery were constructed to address the ongoing baby boom that began at the end of World War II.

Throughout the nation, the popularity of alpine skiing continued to grow tremendously, and  along with it, the need for orthopedic care. Paul Fry II, MD, arrived in Tahoe in 1965 and was Barton’s first board-certified physician, bringing orthopedic surgery and the techniques/ equipment to care for orthopedic injuries.

With rapid regional growth, evolution was imminent and the need for a 24-hour facility was clear. By the end of 1966, Barton’s emergency department established round the clock care, averaging 35-40 cases daily, 280 babies had been born at Barton, 550 surgeries performed, 7,327 X-rays taken, and 16,427 lab procedures conducted.

A Tribune newspaper clipping of the grand opening of Barton Memorial Hospital on Nov. 23, 1963.

Again, to meet growing demand, the hospital was doubled in 1969 to 46,000-square-feet, and available medical services grew to encompass family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, radiology, and pathology.

We commend the forward thinkers, physicians, nurses, and staff whose dream of a modern healthcare facility drove the creation of Barton Memorial Hospital, and those who continue to drive forward healthcare in the Lake Tahoe community today.

Dr. Clint Purvance is the President and CEO of Barton Health. Dr. Purvance has worked within the Barton Health organization since 1999, initially as an Emergency Medicine physician in the Barton Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, then as Chief Medical Officer. Learn more at BartonHealth.org.

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