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Lower Bucks Hospital Celebrates 60 Years of Providing Health Care

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Lower Bucks Hospital Celebrates 60 Years of Providing Health Care

Peter Adamo, former CEO of Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township, addresses the audience Thursday at the hospital's 60th anniversary celebration on September 17, 2015.

By Anthony DiMattia, STAFF WRITER | Posted: Thursday, September 17, 2015 11:45 pm

Bucks County native Stephen Long was back at Lower Bucks Hospital on Thursday, roughly six decades after becoming the first baby born inside the Bristol Township facility.

"I was the last of 12 kids and my mother had anticipated going to the Philadelphia Hospital ... so (my father) said 'let's go to the new hospital, I don't know if they're open but let's go,' " Long said. "So my dad bee-lined it here and, sure enough, they were greeted with welcome arms. I don't think my mom set foot in the hospital but for a few minutes and I came."

Long was among hundreds of community members to join past and present hospital officials and staff Thursday to celebrate the hospital's 60th anniversary. Following a brief ceremony in the parking lot off Bath Road, attendees funneled inside for a glimpse of some old hospital artifacts before heading on a tour of the building.

"This is truly a special day," said Linda Grass, who joined the hospital as its new CEO about a month ago. "Sixty years is a long time, but more importantly it shows resilience and a sustainability during some really tough times. Health care has many challenges ... but this hospital has done a phenomenal job with braving the tides."

In 1950, a group from the Bucks County Rescue Squad approached Otto Haas, the then president of Rohm and Haas, about a donation to help launch a new modern local health care facility. Haas pledged $100,000 and a community fundraising effort was launched with the goal of raising $1.5 million from the 15 municipalities that the hospital would service. The "kick off" campaign began May 15, 1951 with a gathering of 100 people at Bristol High School.

"We built this hospital by payroll deduction," said Delores Brown, former chairwoman of the Lower Bucks Hospital board of directors. "Everybody wanted to sign up. They had about 50 cents to a dollar taken out of their paychecks up to $100 to $200."

Roughly 60 percent of the funds to construct the $3.5-million facility came through community efforts, with the rest funneled from the federal government through the Hill-Burton Act.

Construction of the new 150-bed hospital began Nov. 2, 1952, following a groundbreaking ceremony attended by former Congressman Karl C. King. On Oct. 30, 1954, the community gathered to formally dedicate the completed facility before the first patients were admitted five days later.

At that time, the only other major medical facility in the area was the private Harriman Hospital on Wilson Avenue in Bristol, which later changed its name to Delaware Valley Medical Center — now Aria Health Bucks County — before moving in 1981 to Oxford Valley Road in Falls.

Six decades later, the facility's 300-doctor-medical staff will see almost 5,600 patient admissions and 60,500 outpatient visits this year, officials said.

Its future plans include reopening a shuttered ambulatory surgery center on the hospital campus, increasing cardiovascular services and luring back doctors who left during Lower Bucks' financial troubles several years ago.

Recently, it expanded operations with its new, 18-bed behavioral health wing at the 36-acre facility. The new unit — the only one in Bucks County to offer behavioral and medical services — adds to the hospital's existing cardiology, cancer, surgery, orthopedics and sports medicine programs.

“My promise to you is to continue to partner with the Lower Bucks community to better understand the health and wellness needs, and to position this hospital as your destination for care," Grass said. "We will develop clinical programs that meet your needs, partner with your doctors, nursing homes and emergency medical squads.

"We will provide an extraordinary patient experience with ease of access and strive for positive outcomes. We will make you feel welcome and comfortable in our facilities and on our beautiful campus.”

In October 2012, Prime Healthcare — which also owns Roxborough Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia and Mercy Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County — took over the operation of Lower Bucks after it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. The hospital emerged from bankruptcy in January 2013, thanks, in part, to a $14 million loan from the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority. The authority took title of the hospital property and then leased it back to the hospital.

Since its acquisition, Prime Healthcare has invested about $20 million in Lower Bucks Hospital, making capital improvements such as a new roof and a renovated main lobby, and adding additional equipment and medical technologies, hospital officials said.

"If you go into the lobby you'll see a lot of newspapers and headlines, but one that really catches my eye is from 1964 during the 10th anniversary of this hospital ... what the headline said was 'the hospital founded by the people, to serve the people," Grass said. "This hospital is now positioned in the community to be a market competitor, so if you go the full span of the 50 years between ... you can see why it has been so important for Lower Bucks to stay where it's at for its community."

Republished with permission from the Bucks County Courier Times.

Additional photos and video from the day may be found at: