Born through the efforts of Drs. Walter Austin “W.A.” Carr and William Arthur “W.A.” Smiley, Junction City’s first hospital opened on September 9, 1913 in a large house located on the southwest corner of Second and Adams Streets.
After a few years, the hospital outgrew the old home and it became apparent that a new hospital should be built. The voters approved bonds and the new Junction City Municipal Hospital was completed at 900 S. Jefferson (at the corner of Ash Street and Jefferson Street) in 1920. It stands today as the Dreiling Arms Apartments. Dr. Carr admitted the first patient, August Neuber, in 1921 to the 25-to-30-bed facility. An addition was built in 1932 using federal funds.
Dr. Herb Bunker Jr., who practiced in Junction City for 43 years, recalled that the hospital on Jefferson Street was adequate, but had some obvious disadvantages. It had small rooms and only two operating rooms. Staff had to wheel the patient through the lobby to get to the operating rooms. He added that the emergency department consisted of one room with no additional room for storage or back up. Patients waited in the hall for their turn in the one room. The x-ray department was also only one room, which included a darkroom. The x-rays were hand developed from the hospital’s own film. The laboratory was assigned to one room as well.
In 1963, an election was held to change ownership of the hospital from the city to the county and on May 1, 1963, the hospital became known as Geary County Hospital.
A new hospital was planned at the southwest corner of Ash Street and St. Mary’s Road to replace the aging facility on South Jefferson Street. Geary County sold $1.1 million in bonds and received a matching sum from federal Hill-Burton grants. In return for the federal aid, the hospital promised to provide charity care to the indigent for the next 20 years. Although the debt has been retired, the hospital continues its commitment to those patients with little or no ability to pay.
The current hospital was completed in November 1966 and, in the summer of 1967, opened its doors to patients. Don Wise, administrator, dedicated the new hospital on June 4, 1967, which coincided with a name change to Geary Community Hospital to better reflect the hospital’s mission and vision. There were eight medical doctors and no specialists working in Junction City at the time.
Since its opening, the hospital campus at 1102 St. Mary’s Road has been improved upon and expanded many times. In order to attract and accommodate more physicians, the first of two medical arts buildings was constructed in two stages over nine years, beginning in 1974. 1987 brought a remodeled surgery center and in 1994 we expanded the emergency room and outpatient services. In September 1997, the hospital opened the Martha K. Hoover Women’s Health Center and the Senior Health Center, a geriatric-psychiatric unit to treat seniors 55 and older who suffer from mental disorders.
In 2004, the first three floors of the Medical Arts II were completed. This space allowed for the relocation of administration, the business office and other non-medical offices to the new medical arts building and opened up prime space in the hospital for patient care functions. In 2006, a fourth floor was added to the Medical Arts II. It was soon occupied by most of the practitioners of the hospital’s rural health clinic.
By far the biggest construction project since the new hospital was built in 1966 was the $34 million, 110,000 sq. ft. expansion project that opened in February 2009. Essentially doubling the size of the hospital, the expansion included a new 36-bed, all-private-room medical/surgical unit, a new 6-bed, high-tech Thomas and Barbara Fegan Intensive Care Unit, and a new surgery center with four operating rooms, two procedure rooms, 16 private patient rooms and space for expansion. An auxiliary gift shop and a new chapel were included in the new wing.
Throughout the years Geary Community Hospital has been a leader in healthcare for our community and our region. GCH was the first facility in Kansas to do in vitro fertilization and in 2000 we began Kansas’ first bariatric program. From 1995 to 2012 GCH was home to The University of Kansas Family Practice Residency-Junction City Rural Track program, led by Dr. Ronald Mace. GCH has expanded to include a family medicine clinic in the neighboring community of Chapman, and established other programs, such as Hospice, Home Health, the Home Medical Equipment store and AlphaCare to better serve our patients and their families.
Today, Geary Community Hospital maintains its commitment to providing outstanding care to patients while providing an enjoyable work environment for our 500+ employees. GCH continues to explore ways to improve patient access to care, develop services that provide what our region needs and wants, and create programs that improve the wellness of our community.
We’re proud that, for over a century, Geary County residents have made Geary Community Hospital their healthcare provider of choice.