The Bradford Hospital
In 1881, a movement to build a local hospital was begun by members of the McKean County Relief Association. The project was finally incorporated in July of 1885, and realizing the need for supervised medical care, an old farmhouse on Pleasant Street, located where the Medical Arts building (old Hamsher Hall) stands, was converted into a medical facility. Many people did not embrace the idea, however. It was believed that if a relative had to be taken to the hospital, all hope was lost, and many people preferred to have their loved ones die at home. But eventually, the people of Bradford began to see the hospital as a place of healing, not hopelessness, and the popularity of the Bradford Hospital was assured.
The building, painted gray and made of wood, was opened for patients on May 10, 1887. Doctors tied their horses and buggies outside as they made their "rounds", visiting their patients. One of the first improvements was the installation of electric lights in 1893.
In 1906, a more "modern" facility had been built, consisting of an administration wing, men's ward, women's ward, surgical wing, and a kitchen. A maternity wing was added in 1908, and a children's ward in 1914. The maternity wing was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1925, but was immediately rebuilt by early 1926. Sarah Hamsher donated the Hamsher House in 1917 in memory of her husband, Lewis, to be used as a dormitory for the Bradford School of Nursing students, and in 1938, the Kennedy Unit was added. But it was not enough. In 1943 there were 150 beds available, far below the amount needed for a town the size of Bradford. In addition, the building was old fashioned, uneconomical to operate, and not fireproof. The Bradford Hospital Building Fund was begun in May 1943, with initial pledges of $25,000 by the families of Joseph Bovaird, William Healey, and Otto Koch. Construction was begun in January 1950 - pledges collected had already amounted to $1,800,000.
After nearly 18 months of construction, the new hospital was opened for public inspection on May 12, 1951. The new hospital boasted fire-proof construction, modern telephone service, a paging system to call doctors, piped oxygen to each room, 200 patient beds, an intercom system to each patient room, a surgical recovery room, two delivery rooms, a new born nursery, and treatment rooms on each floor. The Women's Auxiliary themselves made most of the curtains on the windows, saving $2500. Little known is the fact that the building itself was sided with aluminum - making it the first such hospital in the world built of this material. This fact gained widespread publicity in magazines and newspapers during its construction. Although aluminum siding increased the cost of the building, maintenance costs were expected to be minimal compared to brick. In addition, there would be no plaster to crack (and repair) and little or no painting to be done.
In May 1950, a quarterly magazine, the Pulse, began publication. It promised to relate interesting facts and events that concerned the Bradford Hospital, to help the public better understand the goals of the hospital. It contained biographies of doctors, photographs of nurses in action and throughout the hospital, requests for things needed at the hospital, and short, informative articles. The Bradford Landmark Society has issues dating to 1956.
The hospital (now known as Bradford Regional Medical Center) has undergone even further renovation as the medical community strives to provide the latest and most up-to-date treatments. In the fall of 2005, a five-story addition was begun. It will include a 65,000 sq. ft. outpatient care center, an upgrade and enlargement of the emergency department, a neurosciences center, a custom oncology unit, major updates to the surgical services, and increased space for Upbeat and cardiac rehab/cardiology services. What changes our hospital has undergone in the past 125 years!