HOW WE GOT STARTED
In 1958, Salem, Arkansas, a growing community of around 700 people, received some disheartening news. Their only practicing medical doctor, a Dr. Guenthner, had announced plans to close his practice and move to Mountain Home, leaving the good people of Salem in desperate need of a new doctor. Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait long. Dr. Carl B. Arnold soon moved into the facility vacated by Dr. Guenthner and began his own practice. However, Dr. Arnold soon recognized that rapid population growth and the extreme distance to the nearest hospital (50 miles or more) had created the need for the people of Salem to have a hospital of their own. In 1961, the voters recognized this need as well, voting 2-1 in favor of issuing tax bonds to match moneys from the Hill-Burton Funds made available by the Federal Government and giving Salem, and Fulton County, its first hospital.
Construction was completed in 1963 under the supervision of the eight men appointed as the first Hospital Board of Governors by Judge Oren Haney. They were Jack Cochran (Chairman,) G.T. Humphries, Jim Humphries, Jimmy Miller, Charlie Short, E.R. Carroll, Reece Smith, and Wilford Brown. On March 21 of that year, the hospital opened its doors. A staff of 18 people, led by Hospital Administrator Mack Harbour, stood ready to service 22 patient beds. At the time, Dr. Arnold, whose advocacy for the hospital had been heard and answered, was the only staff physician. He was joined in June by Dr. David Ducker, who had recently returned from completing naval obligations. Health Service increased rapidly over the next few years and Doctors James Davis, Charles Tucker, and A.T. Walker were added to the staff in order to help keep up with the rising flow of patients.
The hospital also grew in literal terms, experiencing four expansions. In 1968, a second emergency room and a new surgery suite were added. The addition of the operating room brought a Board Certified Surgeon, Dr. Jack Langevin, to the FCH staff. The addition of both surgeon and operating suite prompted The Salem Headlight to declare Fulton County Hospital “the most modern small hospital in the state.”
The 70’s brought the addition of an ambulance service, new bed accommodations, and an expansion for support services. They also saw changes in staff, as Dr. Davis, Dr. Tucker, and Dr. Walker moved on and Dr. Michael Moody, Dr. Jim Bozeman, Dr. Thomas Benton, Dr. John McCormick, and Dr. Griffin Arnold joined the ranks.
The hospital experienced financial difficulties in the 80’s. But, much as they did when the hospital was first conceived, the members of the community recognized the need for, and showed a commitment to, health care services for Fulton County, passing a sales tax to assist in upgrading and maintaining the hospital. Soon after, a heli-pad was constructed to support Air-Evac to better help them serve the residents of Sharp and Fulton counties. In 1993, Fulton County Hospital celebrated 30 years of service to Salem and the surrounding area. They also stationed an ambulance in Mammoth Spring on a permanent basis to provide faster service to residents of eastern Fulton County.
The new Milennium brought with it many changes. In 2002, the last baby was delivered at FCH, effectively ending an era. In 2004, a special election was held for a 1/2 % sales tax levy to support the operation and maintenance of the hospital. In July 2008, the hospital opened a new ER and Outpatient Procedure wing. The hospital continues to grow and to shape and be shaped by the community it serves. It maintains a commitment to offering services that are of greatest benefit to that community.
Despite the fact that many small rural hospitals have closed, Fulton County Hospital continues to offer quality healthcare to the residents of Salem and the surrounding area. It is one of a very few solely owned and operated county hospitals in Arkansas. We believe that this is because we are a community hospital.
We take care of our neighbors.
And, as we continue to grow and to serve the needs of this community we love, we look forward to taking care of you.